We had the good fortune of connecting with Shannon Wallace and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Shannon, other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
Actually, I did not decide to work for myself. For several years, it was decided for me until it ultimately became my choice. The story: In 2007, I decided to leave a wonderful government job for a career move to a non-profit that had the promise of taking my marketing and public policy professional life in the direction I thought I wanted it to go. However, in 2008 I was laid off from that job due to the economy completely tanking that year. YIKES! But as we humans eventually (hopefully) find out that life never gives us what we want; but rather, it ALWAYS gives us what we need, I discovered that getting laid off from being a director of public affairs for a 501c6 trade association was EXACTLY what I needed in order to start my own journey of being self-employed. So, the single most important decision I ever made in my career to-date is….sustainably remaining self-employed, all while discovering that the world does not revolve around me – but rather, that I am an important contributor to it. In other words, I discovered in my self-employment that I could be of meaningful service and a great contributor to the world and to those who could benefit from what I had to offer. In essence, I have discovered that compassion can create great success and that, it’s not just loving what you do and doing what you love. It’s more than that. What contributes to my success is ensuring (sincerely) that what I do, I do it passionately, mindfully, meaningfully, compassionately, and empathetically for me; and more importantly, giving it generously to those for whom I serve.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have been a professional jazz vocalist for the past 20+ years. From fronting 20-piece big band orchestras to small duos/trios, I have now travelled all through the United States and into parts of Europe and Asia singing for small intimate gatherings to crowds of 1000s of people. It has been my delight to be able to perform for others and despite COVID, I do hope to get back to the stage when the world is once again comfortable with public convenings. Meanwhile, I am most excited about the musical work I have been doing for the past 5 years, working with the cognitively impaired/dementia contingent. Initially and pre-COVID, I performed in-person, accompanied by my darling pianist Charles Lewis, for memory care communities. My Musical Memory Care™ work taught me much about the diseases that are dementia (there are hundreds under the ‘dementia’ umbrella) and how music and movement combined can soothe the soul and/or spark vitality back into the eyes of those who are trapped, yet still so alive inside. This in-person work took me all over the state of Arizona providing interactive workshops for active seniors and those living independent, assisted and memory care lifestyles – for the young and the old. But once COVID hit, that work was completely wiped out, nearly instantly. In doing the in-person work, I knew that eventually I wanted to create a virtual platform on which to offer my services; and because of COVID, I now had the time to figure it all out. Thanks to the incredibly invaluable help of my friends and colleagues Holly Nabil (graphic/web designer) and Otto D’Agnolo (music producer), and the support of my husband John Knell, I have generally been able to serve as my own IT, marketing, development & sales departments. As a result, I took 3.5 months to learn how to build my virtual platform (again with the incredible help of Holly, Otto and John), acquiring all of the necessary soft- and hardware. On June 1st this year, I launched the first-ever virtual and interactive live streaming and on-demand Music, Movement & Memory™ workshop program aimed to serve active adults and those of all ages living with all stages of dementia and cognitive impairment, along with their care partners. Each live and pre-recorded video features myself interacting with my virtual audience who then experiences full-body movement exercises; memory and hand-eye coordination games; problem-solving games (i.e. mathematics, geography, science and history); humor and interactive, reflective conversation, all set to music and/or rhythm. Subscribers can access this service at www.MusicalMemoryCare.com from most digital, streaming devices. The live streaming user-experience also includes an interactive chat component; while the growing library of pre-recorded videos also cover topics, ideas and concepts relevant to health, family, life, mindfulness and overall well-being. Two subscription levels are available: an Individual Plan (dedicated to those aging in-place and /or in-home caregivers/care partners to those aging in-place); and a Corporate Plan (dedicated to companies/organizations and property management operations serving those living independent and assisted lifestyles, as well as memory care/long term care). I will tell you that creating this platform was NOT at all easy…and what I didn’t know was A LOT! That said, it was with the support and encouragement of my friends and family that I now, five months into the launch, have the support of Barrow Neurological Institute, AARP-AZ, the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Scottsdale Arts organization, several memory care communities and many households around the state. My biggest take-away insofar? Build ‘it’ and they will come. HOWEVER….one must build ‘it’ from a place of mindful compassion, sincerity, empathy and love. THOSE are the secret ingredients to one’s ultimate success. Without that, ‘it’ is simply unsustainable.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Within my stomping grounds of Cave Creek/Carefree, I would take my best friend to a rustic breakfast at either the Black Mountain Café in Carefree or Harold’s Corral in Cave Creek. Then off to a Spur Cross or Black Mountain hike. For lunch, either Janey’s Café or The Grotto in Cave Creek and then ice cream at the City Creamery where I would highly recommend my favorite flavor of huckleberry lavender – to.die.for!! Dinner would probably be on the rooftop patio of Keeler’s Steakhouse in Carefree and then dessert at Sweet Suzan’s (walking distance) for THE BEST gelato in the Valley!!! Other cardio-oriented “must do“ Arizona highlights include a hike up to Cathedral Rock in Sedona, kayaking on Bartlett Lake, and daily morning workouts at my local gym (my best friend works out too!).Other special highlights could include meandering the Waterfront and Old Town in Scottsdale, eating at Malee’s on Main (Thai food), Coffee at Schmooze and shopping the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts gift store (lovely trinkets!!); taking my friend to lunch, a tour and then gift store shopping all at the Musical Instrument Museum in North Phoenix; spending a late afternoon shopping and eating on Roosevelt Row in Phoenix, culminating the night with a live jazz music concert at The Nash (perhaps I am performing there that night!).

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
We are fortunate as people to have someone, one someone in our life, who can play a large role in shaping the person we become. I have been fortunate to have several ‘someones’ throughout my life who have contributed greatly. Some of those notable ‘someones’ have been my two grandmothers and a dear, wise friend. My grandmothers first. My paternal ‘grams’ Helen was with me for my entire life up until two years ago when she passed at age 96. She was the peas to my carrots. She taught me how to bake, sew, garden, landscape, craft and how to love unconditionally. My maternal grandma Laura passed one year after I was born, but she is the reason for my place on this earth (a story I cherish). She is my Italian fireball that lives and breathes within me and gives me the courage I need when I find myself in doubt. And my dear, wise friend Charles Lewis who, for years, has shared his wisdom with me about humanity, life, love and the art of ‘letting go.’ For these three and several others I have not mentioned here, I am grateful!

Website: www.MusicalMemoryCare.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shannonwallacesings/
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shannonlwallace/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/swallacesings
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ShannonWallaceSings/
Other: www.ShannonWallaceSings.com

Image Credits
Caitlyn O’Hara Rhonda Thiel AARP-AZ Midwestern University HelpMySenior.com

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