2018 Speaker: Jennifer Shaw
Warm. Real. Funny. Intelligent. Engaging. These are some of the words people use to describe Jennifer Shaw. But her favorite? "Christ-follower, absolutely," she says. With a love for people and a heart to serve God, Jennifer wants nothing more than to point people toward the One who has changed everything in her own life.
Both a special needs and adoptive mom, Shaw is also a Telly Award-winning speaker, author, singer, songwriter, and five-time Billboard Top 40 artist who never thought she'd be doing what she's doing now. "It honestly never occurred to me," Jennifer said. "My background is entirely in classical music, and I was teaching at the university and singing with symphony. My plan was just to teach quietly somewhere and perform a little bit and raise my family. When I accepted the position of music director at a church, I never could have foreseen how things would change. In fact, I remember very clearly telling the lead pastor that I would do anything with music, but to never, ever ask me to speak from the stage because I wouldn't do it!"
But everything did change. Through devastating and unexpected circumstances, Jennifer's picture-perfect life came to a screeching halt with a series of life-changing events that she describes as her refining fire. "It taught me who I was. No one wants to go through hard times, but those life experiences are what taught me what was important. It taught me that life really is all about Jesus – knowing Him and making Him known. His faithfulness to me took my breath away, and it changed everything."
Jennifer began her musical ambitions early in life with an intense love for the piano, and after hearing her first Beethoven sonata, she was hooked on classical music. At an audition for a piano scholarship, she was urged by her choir director to also audition in voice, and much to Jennifer's surprise, ended up receiving the voice scholarship instead. She studied her craft in New York and received a Master's Degree in Vocal Performance from the Manhattan School of Music. Jennifer has performed in over forty shows in the theater, everything from Shakespeare and straight drama to musicals and children's theater.
After moving back home to Ohio, Jennifer began performing with the Columbus Symphony and later appeared at Carnegie Hall. She also became a Professor of Music for Cedarville University as well as the music director for her local church. Life for Jennifer and her husband and their two daughters seemed to be nearly perfect. But in 2003, Jennifer miscarried and began to bleed internally. Her husband rushed her to the hospital only to find out that Jennifer was dangerously close to death. "Realizing that I had nearly died put an entirely new spin on life for me. I started questioning things. Why are we here? What is the point? What is the purpose of life?" She will walk us through her trials and her discovery of the one true God.