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Sheléa Serves GRAMMY Week Motivation: "This Is Why I Do What I Do, To Give To The Next Generation"
To have some of the most respected music O.G.s—including Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder and David Foster—in your corner is no small feat, especially in today's highly saturated, internet-led space. Soulful songstress Sheléa has all this and more—in 2012 she performed for the at the White House for Barack and Michelle Obama, for example—but she values celebrating her heroes and inspiring the next generation above personal accolades and achievements.
At the first of the educational events during the GRAMMY Museum's special GRAMMY Week programming, the singer/songwriter/keyboardist treated students to a powerhouse performance, an informative interview by the Museum's Senior Education Coordinator Schyler O'Neal and thoughtful answers to the students' questions.
To start things off, Sheléa sang two songs—"Summertime," the 1930's jazz number first popularized by Billie Holiday, and Bill Withers' 1971 GRAMMY-winning classic, "Ain't No Sunshine." During the latter song, she encouraged kids to snap in time with her, and they all did; a few even kept the rhythm going when others took a break to soak in her powerhouse high notes.
"You're the future, so it's an honor to spend time with you," she said to the smiling group of students, consisting of high schoolers from four local Los Angeles schools.
When O'Neal asked how she got to where she is today, the "City of Angels" singer said, "I've been true to myself this whole journey," which required a lot of faith, honesty and heart. She also talked about working with and becoming friends with Wonder in recent years, who she's been a fan of since she was very young.
She collaborated with the 25-time GRAMMY-winning legend on "Love Fell On Me," the title track to her 2013 debut album, and "Pretty World," the first song off of her 2019 tribute album to GRAMMY-winning songwriter power couple Alan and Marilyn Bergman. She also shared that she has another song with Wonder on the way via his forthcoming project.
When the questions were opened up to the audience, the kids followed up with some great questions. One of the most moving ones came from Oscar, a senior who bravely shared he's struggled with anxiety and self-doubt for much of his life. He wanted to know if Sheléa had any advice that could help him overcome these difficult emotions that he knew were holding him back. She reminded him, and everyone in the audience, to remember "You're not alone," as many other people—including successful, creative people—also face these feelings.
Sheléa also highlighted the importance of having the people closest to you lift you up and hold you accountable to your goals in a compassionate way. Even if it's just one person, she stressed, having someone "that will do it in love, in a way that will resonate with you" is a great way to stay motivated and grounded. Underscoring that it can take time to find these people in your life, Sheléa pointed out that it's equally important to champion yourself, citing how affirmations have helped her. "Affirmations set to music are song formation," Sheléa noted before reciting some with the group. Hearing "I am enough" echo through ourselves and the theater was a powerful moment for everyone there.
The final student question came from a girl who wanted to know what the biggest moments in Sheléa's job were, to which she replied, "This is why I do what I do, to give to the next generation…You're going to go above and beyond what I'm doing. That's real, the realest thing."
Another very brave student, Isaiah, volunteered to take the stage for a special mini-vocal coaching lesson with Sheléa. He chose to sing Alicia Keys' GRAMMY-winning bop "If I Ain't Got You" and with some guidance and encouragement, was able to drop into his body, move past some of his nervousness and hit a higher register.
Finally, the "Because Of You" singer wrapped up the event with a song—Bob Dylan's oft-covered 1997 track "Make You Feel My Love"—before taking a group photo and selfies with the smiling students.
The GRAMMY Museum's jam-packed GRAMMY Week programming continues with more student-centered educational programs, like Music Of Hawaii and Careers In The Music Industry, as well as all-ages events with The Cranberries and Linda Perry. Visit the Museum's programming page for more info on what you can attend.