Monday, August 5, 2013

Goodbye, Duluth!

      Now that I am in Chicago learning Barbarina and preparing for my eastward journey in a month, I would like to take a moment to write about the place that has been my home for the past two years, Duluth, Minnesota.

What brought me to Duluth?

     After my undergraduate studies, I took a year off to work and apply to graduate schools. It was a long, grueling process that cost me a lot of time and money, but in retrospect, I'm glad I took that year to figure things out. I always joke with people that if the music thing doesn't work out I should just get a job helping other music students apply to grad schools because I'm so experienced at it. After sending in almost 20 applications and traveling all over the country for live auditions, I got accepted into two great programs, one in voice and another in opera directing. In the end, I landed on University of Minnesota Duluth because I found a voice teacher that I loved and because I wanted to keep pursuing the performance career.


     My two years at UMD helped me grow tremendously as a singer. I got a lot of performance time under my belt, and despite the large size of the university, I received a great amount of individual attention in the music department which is invaluable.
     I was also lucky enough to receive an amazing and unique graduate assistantship through UMD's School of Fine Arts. Not only did I get to go to grad school practically free of charge, but I got paid to dress up like a pirate captain and a princess and sing about nutrition and anti-bullying. Voyageurs revealed so many talents I didn't even know I possessed. I got to stage direct two middle school musical theater productions and tour the state of Minnesota in two different outreach productions. As someone who was never particularly enthused about teaching, I was surprised by how rewarding it could be to share my passion for performance with young students. I also learned the power of ingenuity, creativity, and hard work when it comes to pulling a show together with limited resources. My experience with Voyageurs helped me appreciate all aspects of theatrical productions in addition to reinforcing my love of performing.I'm sure many of the skills I picked up will be invaluable in the future.
     Now that I am leaving Duluth with my Master of Music degree, I just want to say THANKS. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it.

Things I will miss about Duluth:

Dubh Linn Irish Pub

   When I first went up to Duluth to audition for grad school, my mom and I were staying at a hotel downtown. After my audition, we returned to our hotel to change and get some dinner. It had been inexplicably warm that day, especially for January, but as soon as we ventured out to find some food, a blizzard started. We staggered downhill and into the first establishment we could find. We probably looked like half-drowned cats as we trudged in and asked, "Do you serve food? Oh thank god!"
     That establishment was Dubh Linn Irish Pub, and little did I know I would be working there just seven months later.

     When I moved to Duluth that next August, I didn't know anyone in town and was in desperate need of a weekend job. I also didn't have a car, so a job within walking distance of my apartment was essential. So I set off downtown with my resume in hand on a mission... One of my first stops was Dubh Linn. I walked in and gave my resume to the manager.
     "Do you have time for an interview right now?" he asked. 
     "Sure." I was not expecting such a quick turnaround.
     After the interview I was surprised once again. "Can you start tomorrow?"
     "Sure!" I had no serving experience whatsoever, so I was a little nervous. I started cocktailing the next day, and a year later I started bartending.
     I will definitely miss the gang at Dubh Linn. They became my second Duluth family, and as a performer, it was wonderful to have bosses that were so accomodating when I had operas and recitals...even if I did get pestered regularly by my co-workers at 2 am to sing for them...

Lake Superior

     It is a total cliche that people move to Duluth for the lake. It sounds odd at first that the body of water is the main draw. As a native of Iowa, the land of very few lakes and numerous flat cornfields, the lake didn't really factor in when I decided to move up to Duluth. After just a few treks on the lake walk, however, I was a big fan.
    Lake Superior adds such an aesthetic beauty to everyday life in Duluth. If I was stressed out, I could just wander down to the shore and decompress. If I was freezing my butt off at the bus stop (a frequent occurrence), I could at least enjoy a stunning view while I shivered uncontrollably. Sometimes the view almost made up for the bitter cold in those moments...almost.
     As a Pisces, I'm drawn to water. Anytime I could hit the beach with friends it was a great day. I didn't usually go swimming because I'm not a hearty Minnesotan, but if I managed to get about ankle deep in the icy waters of Superior, it was all the refreshment I needed.
     Lake Superior also played a big role in keeping me physically active during grad school. I get bored walking on a treadmill, so being able to work out on the scenic lake walk was a huge incentive.


     Of course, I will miss all the friends I made in Duluth most of all!


     We formed so many great memories together. We made beautiful music together. We made drinks together. Some of us even made palaces out of cardboard together!

     We laughed. Some of us cried. We even hugged (some of us more reluctantly than others). I will miss you all! (Even if I couldn't fit in pictures of all of you...)

     As we journey out separate ways to all corners of the country, I will always remember the great two years we shared.

The big thing I will not miss about Duluth:

     It's freaking cold! Trudging uphill in snow that reaches my waist in -20 degree weather will not be missed in the least. Brr!

     In conclusion, closing the Duluth chapter of my life is bittersweet. I'll miss many aspects of Duluth, but I'm so eager for the next step. Today kicked off my three week program with Chicago Summer Opera. It's so exciting to be singing Le nozze di Figaro again. Also, for those generous souls that may be interested, I am still accepting donations on my GoFundMe site. As a poor singer, I appreciate all the help and donations I have received so far. The support of my family and friends is priceless.
     I'll be sure to post more about Chicago Summer Opera as it progresses, and I'll try to take pictures as much as I can. More information on the casts and performance dates can be found here.

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