Editor’s Note – This is Part 2 of a two-part story about Waitsfield songwriter Shaina Taub. Read Part 1 at www.valleyreporter.com.
Taub remembers being a young girl growing up in Waitsfield, dreaming of the life she has now. “I grew up obsessing over cast albums and reading every name in the cast album pamphlet,” she said.
Obsessed with theater and performance from a young age, Taub spend her childhood acting in shows at the Valley Players Theater in Waitsfield, commuting to Burlington to partake in community theater and taking dance classes in Montpelier.
Performing in annual Harwood musicals was also an impactful experience for Taub, for that’s where she felt the first flickers of inspiration to pursue a life around the stage.
“When I was in seventh grade at Harwood, in my first year of doing the musical, Grace Potter was the lead. She was such an icon to me. It’s been so cool to watch her rise as well,” said Taub. “I always tell people that Vermont has such a vibrant art scene and so many people interested in performing. There’s a lot of opportunity there.”
When Taub graduated early from HUHS in 2005 at the young age of 16, she went straight to New York City to pursue her dreams. “I always knew that I really wanted to pursue this seriously. I was lucky to have a family that supported that dream,” she said.
Graduating from the NYU Tish School of the Arts in 2009, Taub hit the ground running in the New York City theater scene. It wasn’t always easy -- there were times when Taub was unsure of her next steps.
“My piano playing saved me,” she said. “I was able to get jobs as an accompanist. I played for auditions. I played for classes. I played for mommy and me music classes. I did every piano gig under the sun.”
Thanks to an inspiring NYU college professor, Liz Swados, Taub was encouraged to seriously pursue songwriting, which is the foundation of her creative success today.
“I love the combination of songwriting and performing. I wouldn’t be happy doing just one,” said Taub. “But at the end of the day, I identify most as a songwriter. That’s the thing that extends beyond me. That’s the thing I feel most passionate about in terms of what I’ll leave behind.”
Taub takes her songwriting process seriously. She’s a fan of the pomodoro method, a deep focus strategy. “You turn off your phone, set a 25-minute timer, and take 5-minute breaks in between. I found that six pomodoros, or three hours, is my sweet spot,” said Taub.
This self-motivated deep focus time is crucial to any artist, but especially helpful to those just starting out, said Taub. “Now, I’m accountable to producers and companies. I have deadlines. I have people who I need to deliver for. But back in the early days after college, when no one was listening yet, I was big on this kind of self-discipline. I scheduled writing time in my calendar like I would any other appointment,” she said.
“Even before it was my actual livelihood, I trained myself, and the people in my life, to take my writing time as seriously as any other work.”
Part of Taub’s determination and self-discipline comes from her belief in the ability to change the world through music. “As a songwriter, my goals have expanded to wanting to use whatever platform I have to do social and political advocacy,” said Taub, a song advocate of gender equality, racial justice, gun violence prevention and climate justice.
Taub spends her “free” time working for The Working Families party, multiracial grassroots political party that tries to promote progressive candidates for office. She’s also part of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), which aims to protect civil liberties such as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly as well as voting rights and immigrant rights.
“The more I’ve gotten involved, the more I’ve realized how intertwined all these things are,” said Taub. “My art and activism have united more and more as time has gone on. It’s all about making sure that this country works for the many and not just the few.”
Taub hopes that other young women, like her, will have the courage to follow their dreams of changing the world for the better through music. In fact, if she could go back and speak to her younger self, this is what she would say: “Trust yourself. Trust your goals, trust your dreams,” said Taub. “Especially for those growing up in a small town with a big dream like me. I just dreamed of coming here, and I definitely dreamed of the life I have now. Now, I know it’s possible. Follow your dream, even if it feels unrealistic and far away. Trust your passion. Keep going.”