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Dawn Schumilas

Biography

Given by her Irish mother and Polish father, the name Dawn Schumilas literally translates to “a gentle breeze in the forest at daybreak” an appropriate metaphor describing the original music on Dawn’s latest CD For The Birds. This Canadian "roots" recording is in an acoustic folk style, but influences of jazz, classical and Latin music are clearly audible. With classical guitarist Don Happner, Dawn's vocals are backed by the rich interplay of two acoustic guitars or by guitar and bass. Living in a solar/wind powered home (self-built with spouse Don Happner) in the Torch River valley forest of northeastern Saskatchewan, Canada, Dawn has a profound love of nature, which always seems to shine through in her lyrics.

The For The Birds CD is an indie release in a fairly major way. Written, recorded, mixed and reproduced in their home (Nuthatch Studio), Schumilas/Happner also did all the graphics/artwork and hand assembly of each CD. Shortly after its release, For The Birds was selected by CBC for the corporation's recommended playlist, distributed to all the regional stations and featured on several programs.   The CD continues to draw new fans to Schumilas/Happner performances.  

Dawn Schumilas has won several awards in songwriting contests in Europe and across North America including Nashville's "American Songwriter". She was recognized by UNISONG, an international songwriting contest, for placing in the top 10% out of 3,000 entries from 22 countries, where her entry helped to raise thousands of dollars in legal aid for songwriters around the world imprisoned for their words. Dawn has been a workshop leader for "writers in the round" sessions with several popular Canadian songwriters including Willie P. Bennett, Bob Wiseman and Fred Eaglesmith. She was twice selected to participate in Advanced Songwriting Workshops sponsored by the Canadian Songwriters Association and the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada.

Dawn Schumilas was always a singer, right from childhood.  She began serious music studies as a teenager when she received her first instrument, a classical guitar, as a gift from her older brother for her 14th birthday.  Her parents were opposed to music lessons, fearing her passion for it would lead to a lifetime of economic hardship.   They reluctantly agreed but it was her brother, a musician himself,  who arranged a teacher and drove her to lessons. Early teachers included Elizabeth Schwarz, Bruce French, Carl Lotsberg and later Norbert Kraft and Don Happner.   Private studies also included some piano and theory.  At her parents insistence, she combined her passion for music with some business training and in 1983 received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Music. She went on to obtain a Masters of Arts degree in Economics (1984) and worked part-time as an economist and policy advisor for the Alberta government for many years, while also pursuing a performing career as a classical guitarist.   

In 1989, a tendon injury prevented her from aggressively pursing a classical guitar performing career and she began writing songs and singing professionally.  Searching for a guitar master who could help her, she saw Don Happner perform and was astounded with his relaxed playing technique and outstanding musicianship.  Acupuncture restored her tendons and several years of lessons with Happner changed her playing technique to avoid future injuries.  In 1995 she moved full-time into the performing arts as a folk/jazz singer-songwriter, although she still plays the classical guitar for enjoyment and occasionally performs classical duets with Happner.  Now spouses, Don and Dawn currently make their home in northern Saskatchewan, where Dawn writes songs, records, performs, teaches guitar to private students and also teaches part-time in a college business program.