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Joanne Shenandoah spreads the peace in Lowville


LOWVILLE — Joanne Shenandoah is dauntless in sharing her musical message. It’s taken her around the world and helped to earn her a Grammy award.

“It’s primarily music of hope and peace,” she said.

That may be a tough sell to skeptics, but Mrs. Shenandoah is undeterred in her mission. She will share her message Saturday evening at the Black River Valley Concert Series in Lowville.

The peacemaking troubadour, who sings and plays guitar, has performed worldwide, in the Americas, South Africa, Europe, Australia and Korea. In October, she performed in Rome, Italy, at the celebration for the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint in the Roman Catholic Church. She also has performed at the White House, Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden and three presidential inaugurations.

Neil Young, Willie Nelson, Rita Coolidge and Bruce Cockburn are among those she has collaborated with.

The Wolf Clan member of the Iroquois Confederacy shares her Native American heritage at her concerts.

“In the Iroquois way, music is a healing force, and the vibration of music lifts the spirit,” Mrs. Shenandoah said earlier this month from her home in the village of Oneida Castle, Oneida County. “I like to engage the audience into hearing the different stories and songs that I’ve written that are based on Iroquois culture. It’s forgiveness and peace and how it became a confederacy.”

She said she has performed those “stories” solo as well as accompanied by full symphonies.

For her concert in Lowville, she will be accompanied by her daughter, Leah Shenandoah, who is coming out with her own album, titled “Spectra,” later this year, The pair also performed together in Rome at the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha.

Besides being a performing artist (she plays percussion when performing with her mother), Leah also is a jeweler. She has a master of fine arts degree in metalsmithing from Rochester Institute of Technology.

“She’s more along the lines of Adele,” Mrs. Shenandoah said of her daughter’s music. “Mine is more along the line of folk and traditional music.”

The Lowville concert will be one of all original music by the pair. Mrs. Shenandoa has 16 albums. “Lifegivers” is her latest, released last year. It was inspired by cultures and music from around the world.

“It’s a celebration of a woman’s life cycle; from birth and the first heart beating to all the way when she returns home,” Mrs. Shenandoah said.

Mrs. Shenandoah, has been able to channel her love of pop, folk and classical music into her ancestrally inspired music. It has been used in many soundtracks heard on HBO, PBS, TV commercials and the series “Northern Exposure,” which ran on CBS from 1990 to 1995.

In 2006, Mrs. Shenandoah won a Grammy award for her work on the compilation album “A Tribute to Mother Earth.” It received the Grammy for best Native American Record Album. She also has received more than 40 other music awards.

Last year, for the title track on the “Path to Zero Prayer Circle” CD, Mrs. Shenandoah and her daughter were joined by Robert Downey Jr., Sinead O’Connor, Serj Tankian and a recording of Jim Morrison of the Doors reciting poetry.

Mrs. Shenandoah grew up in a musical family. She said her father, Clifford Shenandoah, an ironworker, once played guitar with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Her mother played piano and guitar.

“We hardly watched TV at all,” Mrs. Shenandoah said. “We did music almost every night.”

These days, for inspiration, Mrs. Shenandoah said she is listening to some of the “older songwriters” like Leonard Cohen and Phil Oakes.

“Those, to me, are songs that are just of the heart; songs that are written out of the soul which I’m kind of missing when I turn on the radio,” Mrs. Shenandoah said.

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The Black River Valley Concert Series received grant money from the St. Lawrence County Arts Council for Mrs. Shenandoah’s concert. The series is made possible with funds from the Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the state Council on the Arts, administered in Lewis, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties by the St. Lawrence County Arts Council.

The details
WHAT: Joanne and Leah Shenandoah at the Black River Valley Concert Series sponsored by the Lewis County Historical Society
WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Blue Room of the society’s headquarters, 7552 S. State St.
COST: Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 at the door. Season tickets, at $115, are available for the seven concert series. Advance tickets can be purchased at the historical society, Cafe Z, 7594 S. State St., and Dr. Guitar, 154 Court St., Watertown.
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