Arts & Culture

Grammy-award winning Iroquois artist visits SMU

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Joanne Shenandoah signed CDs in the lobby after her performance. Photo credit: Lauren Aguirre

Grammy-award winning Native American artist Joanne Shenandoah visited SMU Saturday. She performed a free concert in Hughes-Trigg Theater Valentine’s Day evening, alongside percussionist and SMU alumna Laurie Gerard, Shenandoah’s daughter Leah and violinist Erik Hokkanen.

“Leave all your worries on the curb outside. They will be there for you when you leave,” Shenandoah said at the beginning of the concert. “Just be in this moment. Music is a healing vibration.”

Shenandoah performed several pieces from her various 17 albums. During “I Feel Your Love,” she asked the audience to join in. At least 50 different voices sang along with her.

Halfway through the performance, Leah Shenandoah broke down in tears. She had recently lost a friend and had not sung since his death. After collecting herself, she performed a song acapella from her debut album, “spɛktrə.” After she had finished, the audience erupted into applause.

“Thank you,” said Leah Shenandoah. “That was more weepy than I usually sing it.”

Once the performance was over, the audience asked for an encore. Joanne Shenandoah finished the night with a short piece on a Native American flute.

Then, a shout came up from the audience. Joemaine Perry, a spectator, requested a song called “Dancing on Mother Earth.” Shenandoah finished the night with the requested song.

Perry has been following Shenandoah’s music for 12 years. He came to SMU specifically to attend the concert.

“She has a very nice, clear voice,” said Perry. “She’s a phenomenal contemporary Native American folk singer. She uses her traditional vocal skills combined with a contemporary format to create beautiful music.”

Shenandoah is the only artist to win a Nammy, a Grammy and a Pulitzer nomination. She has performed at five presidential inaugurations, Carnegie Hall and the Smithsonian Museum, before the His Holiness the Dali Lama and the Vatican.

Shenandoah’s husband, Douglas George-Kanentiio, also visited campus this past weekend. They gave two workshops. On Friday, Shenandoah presented “Our Relationship to Water-The Vibration of Voice and Music.” She analyzed how human voices can affect the environment.

On Saturday, George-Kanetiio presented “Native Survival During a Time of Prophecy.” He discussed the Iroquois predictions, perspective of current ecological changes on Earth and strategies for survival.

The visit was sponsored by SMU’s Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute, the Scott Hawkins Lecture Series, the Gartner Honors Lecture Series, the Clements Center for Southwest Studies and SMU’s Department of History.

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