– Story by David Wylie Photography by Darren Hull
Imagine walking down the aisle to your very own personal song.
Kelowna born and raised songwriter Sandy Zeleznik wants to create a unique memory capturing a major milestone: your wedding.
“Marriage is an amazing thing. It’s a happy time, a life-changing event,” she says. “Your own song is a keepsake for life, just like pictures, just like video. I put my heart and soul into it.”
Sandy has written hundreds of songs, and has been honing her craft for years.
The first wedding song she wrote was for her niece. Personalized songs became a thoughtful wedding gift she gave to those near and dear.
Sandy knew she had found a unique niche in the competitive music industry — adapting couples’ vows and how they met into professional demos that rival radio songs.
“After I wrote my first wedding song, it brought joy to me and a sense of passion; it was such a wonderful feeling,” she says. “Some things just seem to come into trend. A good friend sang me down the aisle when I got married. I never thought to have a personal wedding song back then.”
Sandy says she writes music as therapy and, along with weddings, has also written songs for funerals. One was even picked up by MADD Canada for a candlelight vigil.
“It’s funerals or weddings. I choose weddings,” she says. “I like to make people cry, I guess: tears of joy or sad tears. I’m an emotional writer.”
She’s also versatile and enjoys crafting funny songs
“Not all wedding songs have to be slow and emotional; there can be some great humorous songs for the reception,” she says.
Chasing her childhood dream of writing songs has been a long time coming.
Sandy married and had kids, raising them and helping her husband, James, run Jazel Homes in the Okanagan. But music never went away. With her kids grown, she now has more time.
“It was always in the back of my mind,” Sandy says. “You hear about people who are artists and they get a little bit more time when they’re older and they can pursue it. The dream can come true. I can take my song-writing to the next level and I can put everything I have into it. When you love something, it’s not work.”
Sandy specializes in pop and country songs. She now writes every day in some way, whether it’s at the piano, with a pen and paper or in her head when inspiration strikes while she’s living life.
Recently, Sandy recalls, the house she grew up in was torn down to build townhouses, and she was there to watch the demolition.
“When that house came down, you would not believe the memories that came back. It’s like when someone dies,” she says. “Not a lot of people see their house that they’ve grown up in torn down.”
She adds: “One such memory was when I started singing at five years old. I sold tickets to all the neighbours for five cents. They all came to see me. I had a little tape recorder and I was standing on these round grey concrete stairs. I had a skipping rope for my microphone and I sang to the Partridge Family,” she says.
“Shortly after witnessing the house being demolished I wrote a song to that memory.”
The hard work has been paying off. Sandy has been making gains in the music industry. She’s had songs picked up by indie artists, met with publishers, and has co-written with writers from Nashville, Vancouver and Kelowna.
“You have to have a lot of patience,” she says. “There is magic in song-writing, like anything artistic. Some people get to pursue their dream when they’re young. I had to wait until I was a little older. There is a time for everything — whether you’re young or old. You can pursue your dream at any age. It’s a tough gig, but I’m in it for the long run. I want to make someone a wonderful song.”
Her personalized wedding songs have been well received, with people saying they rival some of the songs currently on the radio.
“I was very humbled by that,” she says. “It just brings so much joy to people.”
She says the songs are perfect to accompany the bride down the aisle, a first dance and as a wedding video soundtrack. To use a song on a video that’s posted to the internet costs a copyright fee that can be exorbitant — depending on the song.
Some of the songs are recorded by professional studios in Nashville, where she hires world-class musicians and singers. She says she likes to be in the studio when her songs are being recorded so she can make sure her personal flair is reflected in the final recording.
Others songs she records herself. She plays on her grandma’s old piano, on which she learned to play. She also has a newer piano and two keyboards.
One of her highlights was writing a song for her son’s wedding: “It was an honour to do their song; I had a few tears writing that one,” she says.
Sandy and James just celebrated 30 years of marriage.
“I haven’t done one for us yet because I’ve been too busy,” she laughs.
She is now working on an album of personal stories.
More information at sandyzeemusic.com