Ones to Watch: DJ Cassandra Shankman Promotes Positivity through Music
The collaborative creator has established herself as a mentor among her peers and a connector with her audiences
By Britni Rachal
Photo by Brittany Dawn Short
Described by her fans as a “bounty of joy” — as she now hosts DJ gigs that include parties for corporate brands like Meta, Amazon, “Teen Vogue,” American Express, Google, W Hotels and more — Cassie Shankman, also known as DJ Cassandra, is rapidly building a name and network for herself. Just five years from landing her first paid gig, demand for her services is at an all-time high as she works to grow her business with a focus on all types of music, including her favorites of “disco fun, house style.”
Shankman landed her first gig after taking initiative and reaching out to Cara Caulkins of Cara Caulkins Communications to volunteer her time to DJ a Thanksgiving workout event in 2016 at Native Hostel.
“I said, I would love to do this — this would be fun, and I’ll do it for free,” says Shankman. “Since then, she’s hired me for so many incredible events that have led to incredible opportunities.”
“Cassandra always has the most upbeat and positive energy. Not only is she a talented musician and DJ, but she has this innate ability to read the room she is working and provide the best vibes always,” says Caulkins. “Her support of women-owned businesses in Austin is a huge benefit to our community and I’m so grateful to know her!”
Authentic and passionate, Shankman says she “just can’t stop smiling and playing music.” Word of mouth and networking are some of the keys to her success, in addition to long hours, hard work, dedication and the importance of self-reflection. Working to lift others up is one of Shankman’s recent favorite accomplishments — an ability and an importance that she became more aware of after DJing Noonday Collection’s Shine Conference for women.
“The speaker said, ‘It doesn’t blow out your candle to light another woman’s candle,’” explained Shankman. “That literally cured me. I think because of the nature and everything we learn in society is to pin women against one another, instead of lifting one another up. It’s like that in every single industry, and it’s definitely like that in the music industry.”
“You can do anything you put your mind to. You really can.
Realizing there is an abundance of work for everyone, Shankman started offering more to other women. As a result, she hasn’t missed out on any gigs, but other people have more gigs too, as she passes along double-bookings to others, while also mentoring about things like “making sure to charge your value.”
“I can give a gig to another woman. I can give out secrets to other women and still be okay in my job because I have a background and my experience is different than other musicians, and they have their own things too,” says Shankman.
Mentoring and donating her time when applicable, bringing the joy and building connections and community are other rewarding aspects of DJing.
“My favorite thing to see is people meeting on the dance floor,” says Shankman. “They’ll often meet there, start dating, get engaged and then ask me to DJ their wedding.”
Prior to starting her own DJ business, Shankman completed a neurology and music project that gained worldwide attention. Partnering with Hope Young of Biomedical Music Solutions, Inc., Shankman used her composition skills to help create custom music to help neurology patients begin to rewire their brains. Patients of all ages with different types of conditions can benefit from the treatment.
“It started out as a project and now it’s a company,” says Shankman. “So many patients around the world are using this therapy. It’s crazy. We are very complicated human beings. If there’s trauma to the brain somewhere, regardless of which hemisphere, music is found to help rewire the brain by creating new patterns. Nothing else can do that.”
Another exciting aspect of Shankman’s professional life involves being an ambassador for Lululemon. Recently wrapping up a two-year term, Shankman is now a legacy ambassador for the program. She also spends time consulting for television shows and movies, regarding audio and music.
Future goals include hiring her own manager, playing more festivals, traveling for more gigs and placing more emphasis on a healthy work-life balance. “You can do anything you put your mind to. You really can,” says Shankman. “Know that it’s going to be crazy work in any aspect in any job. The thing I wish I had known is to protect your mental health and your physical health. I’m still learning those things. My job and the gigs have been way more important than anything else in my life, but ultimately it’s a job.”
Wise words for a growing professional with a strong impact in the Austin community and beyond.