Helping hand stretches across Canadian border for Swenson-Lee benefit

The Nowacks and Naomi Striemer
Courtesy of Steven Nowack
Canadian record company owner Steven Nowack, with wife, Melissa, holding their son, Joshua, and singer Naomi Striemer, who will sing Dec. 14 at a benefit for the Swenson-Lee family at Maplewood’s Myth nightclub.

 

Last week in Toronto, Steven Nowack’s wife asked if he wanted to watch something sad. Not really, said the owner of a Canadian record company, S Records. But she insisted; there’s a show she loves: “Extreme Home Makeover.” Melissa said: “Too bad. We’re going to watch.”

So the Nowaks watched as the television crew and hundreds of volunteers built a new, bigger house for the Swenson-Lees, the Minnetonka family caught up in a grisly murder last year. Teri Lee was killed in her bed by a stalking ex-boyfriend. Tim Hawkinson, her new boyfriend who had been there to protect her, was killed, too. Teri’s four children, who were also in the house at the time, now live with Teri’s sister, Vicki Swenson, and her family.

Nowack, whose Canadian record company seems to be based largely on his new star, Naomi Striemer, was moved by the story.

“I was in tears for an hour. I said to Melissa, I have to do something,” Nowack said.

Within hours, he was on the phone with Swenson. She and her husband, Erik, have four young children of their own, so with their newly expanded family they were a perfect fit for ABC’s new home show.

Canadian to sponsor benefit concert
Nowack offered to put on a benefit concert for the Swenson-Lees, featuring Striemer, although he cautioned Vicki not to tell the kids yet, because he wasn’t sure how long it would take to pull off all the logistics.

Vicki Swenson hadn’t heard of Naomi Striemer (nor had I) or S Records or Steven Nowack. But he’s enthusiastic and seems to want to help, even when you know that he has a new artist to promote.

“He told me he’d watched the show and had been pacing back and forth. He said his wife and he were devastated, heartbroken, but also inspired, and that he wanted to do something,” Vicki Swenson said, “I was a little surprised at first; you’re always skeptical when you don’t know someone. But he seemed open and honest.”

Nowack didn’t waste time. He called radio station WLTE 102.9, Lite FM, and pitched the idea. Program Director John Lassman said he was more than happy to help. If Nowack could line up a club and make all the arrangements, they’d promote the concert for him.

“I’d be lying if I said I’ve been a big fan of Naomi Striemer for years, but from what I’ve heard, she sounded really good,” Lassman said. “It sounded like a worthy cause, so we told him to go ahead. I expected he’d line up something like the Fine Line,” a midsize Minneapolis club.

But Nowack was thinking even bigger. He called the Myth nightclub, a spacious site in Maplewood, and found management had an open date on Dec. 14. He persuaded the club to host the fundraiser.

Event will feature label headliner
So it’s a deal. Naomi Striemer singing 15 or more songs at the Myth from 7:30 to 9 p.m. There’s no set admission price; Nowack said they’ll accept free-will offerings with all proceeds going to the Swenson-Lees.

On the Myth web site, Striemer is billed as “Superstar Naomi Striemer.” You can judge for yourself by watching her video at YouTube.

Carlos Santana is featured with her on the video.

Striemer, who’s from Canada but now lives in Los Angeles, said last night that she hadn’t seen the “Home Makeover” show, but when Nowack called with his plan, she watched it online.

“It was the saddest thing, for one family to deal with so much,” she said.

Swenson said she talks with Nowack every day, as preparations for the concert come together. She said she knows he has a budding artist to promote, and some publicity in the United States for her can’t hurt. Still, she said Nowack projects a keen sincerity and she hopes the fundraiser will be a big success, for the children’s sake.

Nowack said he used to run a hedge fund in Canada, but quit it several years ago when he first heard Naomi Striemer sing.

Again, he credits his wife.

“We’d been at a movie, and afterward she wanted to stop and buy a book. I said no, and she said: Too bad,” Nowack said. Inside the bookstore, a Chapters in Toronto, Striemer was performing, trying to build an audience for a self-produced CD. Nowack heard the very end of her set and since then, has started the record company to support her career. He said he also has seven other artists on his label.

Nowack has put considerable energy into the project, and says it’s rewarding for him, and not only as a promotion for Striemer.

“This is the most worthy thing I’ve ever done; helping to change people’s lives is an extraordinary thing.

For more about the Swenson-Lees, see the Aug. 13 “Dateline NBC” special about the case and check out the “Extreme Home Makeover” episode.

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