The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Front and Center: Viral YouTube Video Piano Sensation and Music Prodigy, Shaqaila Uelese
Shaqaila Uelese is a 20-year-old instrumentalist from Hastings, New Zealand, whose stunning performance of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” on a public piano went viral after she uploaded a video on YouTube.
Her performance was so good, that Queen guitarist Brian May himself – yes, the veritable Brian May – posted Uelese’s video on his Facebook page and retweeted it on Twitter. Mmm, yeah. She’s fantastic.
There’s much more to this young gifted musician. As a matter of fact, she’s also a guitarist, accompanist, music tutor and composer, and also has experience as a barbershop coach, vocal tutor and choir director.
Uelese is part Samoan/Maori and is very proud of her cultural heritage. Scroll down to watch her performance and visit her Facebook page here.
WiMN: What went through your head when you saw the public piano outside the shop?
SU: It was pretty and looked amazing. I thought it would be cool to play as I’d played another street piano before!
WiMN: Describe the feelings you got after learning that your video went viral. Were you surprised?
SU: Grateful. Yes, I was surprised as I wasn’t expecting it to go viral. I was a bit shocked at first nevertheless was happy people liked it.
WiMN: Your performance was so spectacular, even Brian May of Queen himself posted the video on his Facebook page (!!!). What was your reaction to this? Did you get in touch with him?
SU: I was pretty stoked – speechless and excited. That has been the ultimate compliment, the fact that he reposted and tweeted about it.
WiMN: Do people now stop you because they recognize you from the video? How do you respond?
SU: A few here and there. I just respond saying “thank you!”
WiMN: Let’s backtrack a little. Describe the moment you first discovered music.
SU: Music has always been in the home – my family is musical and I first “discovered” music in the home. We sing all the time for church and Family Home Evening! I love music and my family has a lot to do with that.
WiMN: You are so young (20) and have had so many accomplishments. What has been your main key to success (pun totally intended!)?
SU: God. I’ve never once thought about my music as anything but a gift from God. This is his gift and I am nothing but an instrument in his hands!
WiMN: You are a vocalist, pianist, guitarist, and bassist. Out of these instruments which do you enjoy playing the most and why?
SU: For myself, I enjoy playing the guitar. For others, piano.
WiMN: What are your favorite songs to perform on each of your instruments?
SU: Love playing classical guitar; love teaching barbershop vocals; love Motown funky bass riffs; and I love playing modern contemporary piano!
WiMN: Have you experienced any struggles as a musician due to female stereotypes? If so, please share.
WiMN: What is your ultimate goal career-wise?
SU: To share my music with as many people!
Watch her performance below: