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Award winning singer/songwriter Crystal Shawanda motivates Korah students (3 photos)

‘A little reassurance goes a long way,’ former Korah music student says

In these days of working or studying from home due to COVID-19 restrictions, everyone needs some encouragement.

Crystal Shawanda, award winning country and blues singer/songwriter, provided some words of inspiration for Korah Collegiate music students in a virtual chat Tuesday.

Shawanda, a Korah graduate who studied music at the school during her own high school days, hails from Manitoulin Island’s Wiikwemkoong First Nation.

“Having the opportunity to speak to students is always something I enjoy,” Shawanda said in a statement provided to SooToday Friday.

“I try to think of all the things I wish someone would’ve said to me when I was that age. When you're in high school there’s so much pressure, and I think a little reassurance goes a long way. Especially as a student who has actually walked the halls of Korah, it makes these seemingly impossible goals a little more in reach. With the stress of the pandemic I think everyone can use some encouragement in these times,” Shawanda said.

Shawanda took time for the virtual chat as she was doing a soundcheck in preparation for a performance at the 50th Annual Juno Awards, to be held virtually Sunday, said Denine Williams, Korah Collegiate music teacher.

In fact, Shawanda has already been virtually announced as the winner in the Junos' Blues Album of the Year category for her album Church House Blues in an early awards ceremony. 

She is also a nominee in the Indigenous Artist/Group of the Year category.

"As an aspiring musician, I found her presentation very inspiring and motivating, especially because she went to Korah. It just shows how far you can get when you really want something," said Mikayla Tremblay, Grade 10 Korah music student.

"Everything she said to us was super motivational, and hearing her story and how she began in high school was inspiring. She pointed out that we can decide or change our minds about our career at any point in life, which was really moving to hear. Overall she was really sweet and encouraging" said Dylan McKee, a Grade 10 Korah student.

"I had Crystal come online to speak with my afternoon class about resilience, and as well, her upcoming nomination for the 50th Juno Awards. She was so motivational for the students and they thoroughly enjoyed listening to her,” said Korah music teacher Denine Williams. 

“After hearing of Crystal's nomination for a Juno award for her album Church House Blues, I reached out to her to see if she would be willing to speak with my Grade 10 music class about her successes, including this nomination and what it took to get where she is at with regards to resilience and perseverance, especially in these times.”  

“She spoke of her challenges as a female artist, Indigenous person and switching from the country and western genre into the world of blues music. Crystal also spoke of her good times at Korah, where she developed and grew her craft. The students were very receptive to her speech and were extremely excited to have met her, not only for the talent that she is, but for the inspiration she provided to them to keep moving forward, even when you change your path on the way to where you want to be,” Williams said.

A previous Juno Award winner, Shawanda has also won numerous awards for her albums and singles since 2008 from the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Awards, Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, Canadian Country Music Association and Canadian Radio Music Awards.

"I’m so proud of her. She is such a beautiful person inside and out, and such a talent, Williams said.