JACKSON, Wyo. — Doubling down is always risky but the reward can be sweet. For music teacher, multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Sheena Dhamsania, the latest personal musical journey of pushing boundaries will be the prize. Not only will she be showcasing original music for the first time this Thursday at the Center Theater, she’ll be doing it alone, and on some instruments and methods that she is largely unfamiliar with.
“For many years now, I’ve definitely been more comfortable in a collaborative and supportive role with my inspiring musician friends in the valley and beyond,” Dhamsania shared. “I wanted to take it upon myself to rise up to this challenge because when I do solo stuff its for more intimate settings like yoga classes. So this is a really cool opportunity for me, to treat it as a personal residency, where I have work-shopped a lot of songs that were not finished or that I was reluctant to share with the world. This will be the first time to perform original music of my own, publically.”
Dhamsania studied bassoon on scholarship at Michigan State University, primarily in a classical framework, and picked up the bass guitar in recent years as a member of Risky Livers. She’ll also be incorporating electric guitar, perhaps keyboard, and looping in the context of “phasing,” which she’ll use to layer iterations of her voice to make the music more complex in texture.
One song that she’ll be featuring is “Thomeva Matha,” a hymnal from her youth that is usually sung in a Hindu religious context. As a musician that emerged from Detroit, Motown and soul music has always been close to her heart, while college led her to the indie sounds of Animal Collective and Radiohead. And during her formative years, she would be turned off by the twang of country music on the radio dial. Moving to Wyoming was a game changer with so many local musicians focusing on the roots aspect of country.
“When I started writing some of these tunes, what ended up coming out was this country form and I’m just rolling with that,” she said. “There was one song that is in seven with kind of a lo-fi, hip sound, but I found that some of the other songs had more of a simpler song form than I ever imagined. I’ve always identified as being an instrumentalist and not a singer or lyricist, so this is a total foray into the possibilities of just what happens when you don’t care what other people think about what you have to say about the world.”
Dhamsania was also named 2019 Teacher of the Year in Teton County after being nominated by her peers. She has taught music for nine years, currently at Wilson Elementary. She has also collaborated with many local acts as a gigging musician, including Canyon Kids and her female duo, Sister Shabby. Her experience as a teacher and freelance musician has certainly pushed her in new ways for the upcoming show.
“Programming is so fun and such a cool aspect of this,” she added. “I’m very much an amateur guitar player but it’s really fun to push my boundaries as a musician. Perfection isn’t everything, [and instead I] think about authenticity over perfection. As a classical musician, we’re trained to think right or wrong, and I think my development as a musician in the valley has been more to emote from the heart.”
“A big thanks to Shannon McCormick and the Center for envisioning a space that local musicians have been attempting to access and for opening that up,” said Dhamsania. “It’s probably one of the only stages I haven’t played in Jackson, and acoustically it’s a really special place, so I’m stoked to engage with that as well.”
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