Before LaTasha Shemwell embarked on a music career as an independent artist pursuing the likes of R&B and neo-soul, she had her eye on a different genre after seeing a performance on television at her home in Madisonville.
“Growing up in high school, we didn’t have cable but we had public TV and I saw two African American opera singers who came on TV, Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman,” he said. she declared. “I was just mesmerized – I couldn’t stop watching it. I think I watched their concert over and over.
“At that moment I knew I was going to study opera.”
Shemwell, 48, had experience singing in the choir throughout her time at school and learned Italian tunes on her own in order to audition and get different opportunities like Governor’s School for the Arts and the Kentucky All-State Choir.
Shemwell moved to Owensboro after receiving a music scholarship to attend Kentucky Wesleyan College to study vocal performance with an emphasis on opera, with the initial goal of performing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. York.
But since graduating, Shemwell has yet to check that on her to-do list.
“Long story short, I went to graduate school (for) music and then I realized a lot of people were kind of like starving artists, so I think I got a little discouraged,” a- she declared.
She left her studies at the University of Louisville because her personal life had other goals.
“I kind of put the music on the back burner because you fall in love and all that good stuff,” Shemwell said. “I had a daughter that I had to raise. … I put my family first.
Shemwell also became a vocal coach in order to utilize her degree and feels she does the “most effective work” with students aged 12-20; one of them being recent “American Idol” contestant Dakota Hayden.
Opera is one of the choices Shemwell offers his students to learn alongside other musical styles that interest them.
She said the work may have given her purpose.
“…We’re working on songwriting; we work on goals that they want to set for where they want to be in their music career,” she said. “It’s important to me to give back and encourage them not to let anything distract them or get in their way.
“…I think the more I give them, the more I encourage them and help them succeed – it’s a win-win situation.”
She has also volunteered her services in other ways in the community as pageant director for the Miss Pre-Teen and Miss Teen Daviess County Pageants for the Daviess County Lions Club Fair, while also serving as local pageant chair. of talents Coca Cola Talent Classic.
Three of her students — twins Skye and Amber Carter and Maggie Hollis — took first and second place respectively out of 80 acts at the Kentucky State Fair last weekend.
“I came from humble beginnings and we didn’t have a lot of money and people gave me (those opportunities),” she said. “…I want to do the same for others.”
But it was when the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020 that Shemwell wanted to try her luck herself.
“I think the pandemic kind of helped me say, ‘Okay, it’s time for me to put my goals first now,'” she said.
She started building her solo career before the pandemic to set more of an example for her students and started buying music gear, writing songs and working with a live band.
And while COVID has caused a shutdown for many, Shemwell has embraced the uncertainty.
“…It gave me time to really dive into releasing my music, finding a distribution company, learning the marketing of it, and networking with other people,” she said. .
She describes her artistry and her performances can range from the best for intimate settings such as vineyards like The Wine Down in Newburgh to bringing out all the stops for a full-scale gig such as Friday After 5 or her upcoming October performance. at the ParksFest Music Festival. at Garvin Park in Evansville.
While some genres tend to stand out more than others in her songs and sets, Shemwell is open-minded.
“I sing a variety; I write a variety,” Shemwell said. “I basically write what I’m feeling right now and usually I can write a song in an hour or I can write it in a few days.”
Shemwell released her debut single ‘Only You’ in 2020 with Evansville reggae artist Zion Albert and has since released more songs with the most recent, ‘Good Trouble’ featuring debuting rapper BI$$LE. in May.
Her next single, “Free,” is due out September 18.
The neo-soul genre was part of Shemwell’s upbringing which she enjoyed highlighting and adapting the sounds and writing of Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill.
“For me, it’s a way of life,” she says. “It’s a different type of atmosphere. It’s a visual mood that people can see.
Shemwell feels his coaching and entertaining career is growing.
“I think progress is slow, but it’s moving forward,” she said. “I’m finally starting to see…the seeds I planted…(see) the results. … For me, it’s encouraging.
No matter where life has taken her, Shemwell has never lost touch with what music does for her.
“Music is just who I am,” she said. “Music is therapy – basically. It’s what I do when I’m happy, sad; it touches lives, touches people’s hearts and I just want people to feel in a special way. When I sing, I want people to remember something special.
“I sing from the heart and I write from the heart.”