By Dezimon Alicea, Gary Crusader
Music can be a bridge that brings people together, it can be a way to cross language barriers, and for some it’s a tool of therapy. Have you ever heard a song being played and thought to yourself, “that’s just what I needed.” Gary, Indiana has always been known for its musical background. For many people music was the backdrop of their childhoods. For Gary native Tonya Lanece, music is a way to make people around her feel better; it’s a way to encourage them.
Tonya does not have the luxury as do some others, to work on her craft full time. She works full time, and says her most important job is being a mother to her daughter. A lot of singers and artists have different reasons for what pushed them into their craft. Tonya says she started doing it for fun. A West Side High School graduate in 2008, she recorded her first song around that time. As a writer, she was using life’s circumstances to make beautiful songs. But as a recording artist, a career in that field was not something she was aggressively seeking.
Tonya had plans to go to school for music after graduation, but they were averted. She stayed home and went to school locally. At that time she says she was very discouraged. Although so any obstacles came her way, she continued writing music. By chance Tonya ended up in the studio, recording for the first time since she was in high school. At that point, she was bitten by the musical bug all over again. She began re-cording on a regular basis as a feature artist for others. She soon realized she needed to record her own music.
The passion was there to record her own music, but Tonya admits she was afraid of the amount of time and work that would be required. She was used to recording features for other artists she says, that would take no time at all, “just go in and record and you’re done.” Things would be drastically different if she were to go into the studio doing her own music. She also admits, she wasn’t too confident of how supportive people would be of her music.
When asked how she defines her music, or what genre she falls into, Tonya could not give a simple answer. “I don’t put myself in only one genre of music.” She’s written country music, gospel music, pop music, and rock and roll. She is still active in the music department of her local church in Gary, Mercy Seat Baptist Church. But she does not want people to place her or the music she creates into a box.
Tonya spoke about the support she receives. A lot of it comes from her family. And because of that, she doesn’t pay attention to the negativity people try to bring her way. “Doing what other people want you to do for so many years, eventually you say ok, it’s time for me to do what Tonya wants to do, and everyone else needs to follow suit.” That tenacity is what keeps Tonya going, along with the need to give back to her family. “I feel like I owe them something,” she said, speaking about the people closest to her who have helped her get to this point in her life.
It’s been a long road for Tonya, and there have been many times when she wanted to give up, but her strong support system has kept her going. Along this road that she is still traveling, Tonya has one objective with her music; she wants to help people. She hopes her music will send out a universal message, “that you’re not the only person going through something.” Everything she sings about is something she’s been through, or something that the majority of people can relate to. According to Tonya, the money isn’t the end-all result to making music. That’s not her goal. She just wants to be heard, because if people can hear her, they can hear her message.
Recently, Tonya competed in the SXSW Music Festival in Texas. This is a huge musical festival where people from all over the world compete. She won first place and will travel to Miami, Florida on Labor Day weekend to compete for the chance to win $25,000. Now, this is a big deal. But Tonya looks at the win from the perspective of ways she can improve her craft rather than glorying in her success. This attitude is one of the reasons why so many people continually let her know how much of an inspiration she is to them.
Tonya Lanece will perform Saturday, April 8th at 9 p.m., at The Stage at 925 N. Shelby in Gary, IN.
To learn more about Tonya Lanece and her music, follow her on all forms of social media. For more information on the show, call 219-512-6647 or email [email protected].