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Shae Celine knew her career path early

Ashland native Shae Céline is a performer with a mission.

After discovering her passion for music at a young age, she went on to study vocal performance at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music under Pamela Fry. Céline has worked prolifically in regional music, with performances in “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Anything Goes,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Into the Woods,” “Grease,” “Marvelous Wonerettes,” “What a Glorious Feeling” and more. She is also the lead singer of Rogue Suspects.

I caught up with Céline to chat about performance and how her work is being affected.

JG: Tell us a little bit about your history as a performer and how you came to be a musical artist?

SC: When I was born, my mother was in school to become a music conductor. One day while practicing her vocal scales in the car, she paused because she thought she heard her echo. She then realized that it was coming from my car seat. I was repeating her scales back to her note for note. I think it was at this time when she (and perhaps I) realized that I was going to live a life surrounded by music. I followed in my mom’s footsteps and took every musical opportunity possible through grade school. I then went on to study classical vocal performance at SFCM. After college I came back home and was immediately cast in the ensemble at the Oregon Shakespeare festival’s “The Music Man,” where I quickly learned what it meant to be a professional in the arts industry.

JG: You’ve worked on a variety of creative endeavors in the valley, in your own groups and also with OCT and others. Tell us about that.

SC: When I turned 21, I was out on the town with my girlfriends. The place (now Brickroom) was called Alex’s at the time. At one point, the band called out to the audience. They didn’t have a singer that night, but boy were they rollicking it! They asked if anyone wanted to come up and sing. I had never attempted anything far from classical or jazz up to this point, but I raised up my hand and smiled as big as I could. They seemed somewhat reluctant at first, but chuckled and pulled me up. I looked at their list and picked an Aretha Franklin song, “Chain of Fools.” I was terrified and thrilled. The audience went crazy. I think it’s safe to say they were pretty shocked — as was I.

I’ve been singing steadily with the Rogue Suspects ever since, aside from performing in musicals at OCT, including “Marvelous Wonderettes,” “What a Glorious Feeling,” “Beehive” and “Mamma Mia!” In the last few years, large bands like the Rogue Suspects have been broken into smaller groups to adjust to venues’ preferences and budgets. I currently have six collaborations of musical configurations of different styles and instrumentation.

JG: How has COVID-19 affected you as an artist, and what are your creative plans for the future?

SC: COVID-19 has made it almost impossible to continue performing. Some venues are temporarily shut down, while others are finite. In total, I’ve had to cancel 20 shows. For most of us performers, COVID-19 has been devastating, with zero self-employment income and no help from the government. I’ve done one paid show online with the HIVVE in Grants Pass, which was a success and I am grateful for that, but it doesn’t make up for the other 20-plus canceled shows. I am trying to be optimistic about the reopening in June as shows are starting to trickle back in, but I am definitely unsure about the future of music.

Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a columnist, arts reviewer and cultural commentator. Email him at gillespie.jeffrey@gmail.com.

Shae Céline, center, studied vocal performance at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Jean-Francois Durand photo