Given by her Irish mother and Polish father, the name Dawn Schumilas literally translates to “a gentle rustling in the forest at daybreak” an appropriate metaphor describing the vivid lyric writing of her songs. Her For The Birds CD 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 CD continues to draw new fans to Schumilas/Happner performances.
Dawn Schumilas has won several awards in songwriting contests. She is a finalist in the 2017-18 Canadian Songwriting Contest for the song "Gramma's Apron Pockets", and was a semi-finalist for "Runnin' from the Landlord at the Door" (Happner/Schumilas). She was also a finalist in the 2017 Great American Song Contest for "Gramma's Apron Pockets" and "Rubber Galoshes". This contest had 1800 entries form 42 countries. Of the 100 finalists, 9 songs were written by Canadians, of which 2 were Dawn's. In 2014, Dawn was one of 3 semi-finalists out of 45 Canadians considered for a scholarship to study songwriting online at Berkley, University of California. 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. 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 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.
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 16th 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, and a Masters of Arts degree in Economics (1984). She worked 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 make a complete recovery. Dawn prefers to write "jazz-inspired folk songs" and sing jazz standards and bossa novas, but she occasionally performs classical guitar duets with Happner. Dawn also teaches in a college business program.