During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, many people are finding creative ways for themselves and their families to occupy the time that they have together at home. Some people, like Mat and Savanna Shaw of Kaysville, Utah have teamed up to share their God-given talents in hopes of bringing a ray of sunshine into the lives of others.
It all started with the hopeful song made popular by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli called “The Prayer.” Mat Shaw was working in his backyard when 15-year-old Savanna asked if he would sing the song with her.
Before the pandemic outbreak, Savanna had joined a new youth choir led by choir director Kelly DeHaan at the Hale Center Theatre and was just starting to make friends and feel confident about being in the spotlight. To stay in touch with her choir friends during the pandemic, she created an Instagram account, which would be her introduction to the world of social media. For her first post, she was going to sing “The Prayer” but she did not want to sing it alone.
In late February. The duo recorded and posted their rendition of “The Prayer.” A few days later, after posting the video to Facebook, Mat sent a screenshot to Savanna, with the number of views – 2,700 – circled. He told her, “You’re not going to believe this. Sixty people have shared the video!” As the days went by, the numbers kept rising, and as of mid-May 2020, the video has garnered more than 6 million views.
Since recording “The Prayer,” Mat and Savanna have performed several duets. They have recorded everything from Beauty and the Beast to The Phantom of the Opera to The Greatest Showman. A handful of the duets have been viewed more than 1 million times.
And their popularity continues. With 17 featured songs on their YouTube channel and 385,000 subscribers, Mat and Savanna Shaw have caught national attention from outlets like Good Morning America and The Kelly Clarkson Show. Their names even appear in Google searches and they were recently interviewed on a morning news show in Japan.
During a recent Zoom call with the Deseret News, Savanna said, “I really genuinely only thought that my friends and my family were going to see it. And I think if I would have known how big it would get, I probably would have been a lot more nervous. I’m kind of glad I didn’t know that.”
Never realizing that their videos would go viral, the shy singer in a local choir who was trying to build her confidence, and the busy father of four (Savanna is the oldest) who had put music on the back burner, had an unexpected rise to fame. Mat told the Deseret News, “Savanna’s always been a little bit shy with her music. It was surprising because after having posted these songs, some of her good friends didn’t even know that she could sing like that.”
He continued, “You wonder how many talented, undiscovered people there are out there that just need somebody to be their support and encouragement and help them be brave enough to just put themselves out there. And you wonder how many wonderful messages we’re missing out on just because people are worried that maybe they won’t be accepted, or they’re too shy or they’re worried about criticism. . . .To break out of that shell and just say, ‘Here I am. This is my voice, take it or leave it,’ … it’s absolutely amazing to be able to have the courage to do that. It was scary, but we are extremely glad that (Savanna) decided to do that. And we’re so proud of her.”
Mat Shaw always loved singing. As a child, he aspired to record music and to someday be on Broadway. Those dreams soon changed when at the young age of 14 his father passed away. After his father’s death, the family was faced with financial hardships and moved from Los Angeles, California to Kaysville, Utah.
In high school, he kept his passion alive by singing in choirs and participating in musical theater. He even attended Weber State University on a vocal performance scholarship, although his major was accounting. After graduation, music fell to the wayside as he began to focus more on his real estate business and his growing family.
Mat says, “Performing with my daughter is like beyond my wildest dreams.” Not being tech savvy, it took him and Savanna hours to upload their first YouTube video. The singing duo also has never stepped foot in a studio. They make their recordings in a closet, or what Mat calls his “quarantine recording studio,” which is comprised of a little mic, propped up by a pair of pajama pants that plugs into an iPad. Mat and Savanna practice and record themselves singing in this closet space, away from the daily chaos of home learning. Then, at the kitchen table, they film a video singing along to that recording.
On many of their YouTube videos, thousands of people — including nurses and people who have lost loved ones — have left comments of gratitude. Many have said the music is helping them get through an otherwise dark time. Mat Shaw said, “The one thing more contagious than a virus is hope and so we’re just doing our small part in the world to spread some hope.”
Wife and mother, Brooke Shaw, said, “I love it because before all of this they never sang together and so this is new and just really special for our family.” And, 6-year-old Pennie Jean Shaw said listening to her sister and father singing helps her fall asleep. Mat Shaw added, “Never in a million dreams would we have ever thought that our music would have this kind of impact. That has been the best part.”