B I O G R A P H Y
Psalmist Shonda English, is a multi-gifted gospel recording artist, organist, pianist, percussionist, choral conductor, composer, radio personality, and novelist. A native of Boston, Massachusetts, Shonda began singing at Holy Tabernacle COGIC at the tender age of three. At the time of her birth, her father, the late Bishop W. T. English, was a gospel recording artist on the HOB Records label along with his pastor Bishop Joe L. Smith. The two of them were known as the Gospel Encores. Shonda was completely submerged in the gospel music scene from her arrival on earth. By age five, her father moved the entire family to his hometown of Sumter, SC where she began playing the piano by ear. Acknowledging the need for formal training, her father made sure she spent much dedicated time under the piano instruction of the late Albert Linton; the vocal instruction of Dr. Sonja Sepulveda; and the mentorship of choir master director, Tyrone Block of Chicago’s Stellar-award winning choir, The Thompson Community Singers. All of these elements combined to make an astounding Minister of Music at Greater St. Paul Non-Denominational Church of Sumter, SC, founded by her father. At one point the church’s music ministry consisted of four church choirs, three traveling choirs, and the GSP Symphonic Band; all of which were impacted under Shonda’s musical instruction and training.
A graduate of USC Upstate with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, Shonda taught in both the public and private school sectors. She left the classroom in 2013 to pursue her music career full-time; giving her the opportunity to make her presence known within James Cleveland’s Gospel Music Workshop of America, as well as developing a close-knit friendship with gospel legend Dorothy Norwood, who Shonda refers to as “Aunt Dot”. She is also a Senior Executive Board Member of the National Independent Gospel Music Association (NIGMA) and the Rhythm of Gospel Awards.
Presently gaining international recognition as radio host of the weekly show, “The Old Landmark Gospel Hour” Shonda English- the Gospel Diva, puts to good use all of the gospel music historical knowledge she possesses. The show is syndicated on twenty-six radio stations, including one in the UK and three in Belize. With three full-length albums under her belt, she anticipates the upcoming release of her 4th album “Traveling” under the Dorothy Norwood Music Group label. From this album, she is currently enjoying the success of the title cut, “While Traveling Through” which features special guest Lemmie Battles on lead with Shonda and Richard Gibbs on organ; two Chicago giants in the gospel music industry. Although born in Boston and raised in South Carolina, Shonda has a deep love for the city of Chicago and all of its historical roots in gospel music; as she proudly makes known on the Old Landmark Gospel Hour.
Shonda continues her father’s legacy by overseeing his music publishing company, BEEA Music, and hosts the annual gospelfest “Gospel In the Park” which has convened each year at the Bishop W. T. English Memorial Park in Sumter County, SC since 1996. The year 2020 brought along with it many challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial division and social unrest. However, with God’s divine guidance, she took all this negativity and found a way to convene once again by developing a “drive-in” style concert with Food Trucks on site, with social distancing and mask-wearing enforced. There was no way she could make it 24 years and let all the negativity stop this from happening. She created the theme “Unity in the Community 2020” and brought together a diverse crowd of different races and denominations, all coming together as one to celebrate ONE God through gospel music.
This isn’t the first time she’d been faced with trials that could have easily deterred her from progressing. However, each time something seemed to take the wind out of her, she would put a positive spin on the incident and find a way to uplift others; even as she herself is uplifted. For example, her first solo album “Think On These Things” was birthed after a long battle of depression. She quit teaching momentarily, lost her voice, and didn’t care. But upon a trip to Chicago, she was inspired and came back to South Carolina with new music in her soul. Thus, the album was created. Likewise, her novel was written after a heart-wrenching breakup. She found herself in a dark place and her entire circle of friends were also dealing with very intense issues. Normally, the circle would rely on Shonda to be the voice of encouragement and strength, but this time she was too weak to offer anything. Again, after spending some time in Chicago, she returned home and professed that this would not take her out. She took all of those bad situations and wrote about the lessons taught and learned and created the novel, Oni’s Coffee under the pseudonym E’ShaVonne.
When faced with difficulties and trials, she relies on the lessons and sermons her father gave. “If God is for me, He’s more than the whole word against me.” There’s nothing impossible with God. If He’s given you a vision, then He’s already equipped you with the tools needed to bring that vision into fruition. Therefore, when making life-changing decisions, Shonda takes his teachings into account and lives by these words, “If you never take a leap of faith, you’ll never know how high you can fly.”