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How I became a five-time Iowa All-State Musician

When I was in 8th grade, my band director wasn’t afraid to give me a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal). He told me I was going to be the first four-year music All-Stater from our school district. I was an over-achiever desperate to prove herself to the world, so naturally, I bit. I practiced diligently like the practice nerd that I was (okay, am) and had a lot of great support from my high school band director. Bless her for all the unpaid after school hours she spent giving me lessons and beyond! Low and behold, after dedicated practice, and my first power suit audition outfit, I was named to the 1996 Iowa All-State Band for clarinet. It was the 50th Anniversary of the Iowa All-State Festival.

Fast forward twenty-five years and guess who was invited to sing on the Young Artist Showcase Concert at the 75th Iowa All-State Festival? This girl. The energy and excitement around this event from all involved is very memorable. The crowd of 1000 Iowa All-State musicians and their directors were such a great audience. You could feel their energy onstage. My colleagues were incredible both on and off the stage. The board that put this event together was impressively supportive, thoughtful, and excited. If only all our performances had this type of attitude and energy around them!

Photos: Backstage selfie in a CY Stephens dressing room, sitting in CY Stephens Auditorium, performing on CY Stephens stage for the Young Artist Showcase Recital as part of the 75th Iowa All-State Music Festival.

I'm reflecting on the places I've journeyed to over the past twenty-five years as a musician. Twenty-five years sounds like a very long time. It is-- a quarter of a century. There are things I've experience that this fifteen year old Iowa All-State clarinetist couldn't imagine. Foremost in those unbelievable dreams is being a professional singer.

I made the Iowa All-State Band and Orchestra as a clarinetist four times, and sat first chair in both of those ensembles, but never auditioned for the All-State Chorus. I really didn't believe in myself as a singer in high school and for much of my undergraduate career. My heart kept telling me I was a singer, but it was hard to listen. I'm glad I finally did. To those young or old or in-between musicians doubting your path, I say keep believing and trust your process.

A music performance career is about a lot more than a resume of invited performances at a variety of venues. I've had many significant and memorable musical moments in those performances, but for me, that is not the be all end all. For me, it's about the relationships and connections I've made with other people, both on and off the performance stage. One of the most special parts of my weekend at the Iowa All-State Festival was connecting with beloved music teachers, colleagues, and friends. A past professor once said, "Music is really important, but people are more important." I'm grateful that my musical journey led me back home.

Photos: with HS band director Becky Greiner, with ISU voice professor Mary Creswell, with HS choir director Dave Heupel

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