CHAPTER 1

So it’s safe to say that I did NOT come from a singing family. Sure, we had lots of other things that made us who we were, but singing was not one of them (unless you count my older brother and I intentionally trying to sing painfully bad harmonies).

So imagine, as a 10-year-old, the culture shock of befriending a girl up the street who came from a real life singing family. The Jaskowiaks had 6 kids, and I swear all of them sang. They would publicly perform solos, duets, and trios…and I may have even witnessed a quartet once? I heard melodies, harmonies, more harmonies… oh and they all took dance class too.

The overseer of this great music kingdom and mother hen of the bunch was none other than Sherry Jaskowiak. Watching her kids sing and perform stirred something deep inside my 10-year-old heart. I was in awe of their confidence, but my self-consciousness kept me on the floor. I was simultaneously drawn to and repelled by the idea of me singing out loud. And so I mostly avoided it…but it didn’t completely leave my mind…

Thank you Sherry for creating a culture of singing and performing in your family, and in doing so, inspiring me as a kid!

CHAPTER 2

In 5th grade, I took choir for the first time. I wish I could say that my motive for joining the class was totally pure and noble, solidified by my great love for singing. None of that was true. Rather, I had a crush on a 7th grade boy in choir, and my 11-year-old mind figured that I could capture his heart if I joined. All was going according to plan, but less than a month into the choir experience, I received a B+ from my choir instructor. The gnawing perfectionism in me took hold and I decided to call it quits. That’s right, I didn’t even complete 1 month of choir because I couldn’t stand the thought of earning anything less than an A. Let the judging commence. 

However, not all was lost. Soon thereafter, I joined the school band and selected flute as my instrument of choice. I quickly became the quintessential band geek and would remain so through my junior year of high school. Those life-giving years instilled within me a love of music.  

After its rocky start, singing made its triumphant comeback the day I got my driver’s license. The benefit of having a nearly sound-proof box was being able to sing without anyone listening in. And so the car radio became my first teacher, and I sang away.

About a year later, my friend Danielle Van Etten asked if I wanted to enter a singing competition with her at a high school youth conference. I was still uncomfortable singing out loud, but said yes anyways. And so Dani and I performed a duet, and what do you know, we ended up taking first place at the competition! Ps – that’s me and Dani in the picture… notice my closed-off body language.

So thank you Dani for pushing me out of my comfort zone and for being the friend I’ve had the longest!

CHAPTER 3

So a few years later, I graduated from college and made a new friend my first year of teaching. Sarah Johannah was the music teacher just down the hall, and as a seasoned singer and the only other first-year teacher, she was quick to invite me to karaoke. 

Sarah and I didn’t go just once or twice. We went to karaoke dozens of times over the course of a few years and performed in a handful of locations around the Milwaukee area. We were regulars.
One of my favorite memories was performing a duet with the DJ. The song was a Disney classic…A Whole New World… and we may have used the rug on stage as a prop during our performance… and it may have brought the house down. 
 
As strange as it sounds, karaoke to me felt like a spiritual experience. It was typical for me to be shaking uncontrollably right before going on stage, but I rejected the idea of avoiding it or numbing the fear with alcohol. I viewed karaoke as an opportunity to push past discomfort and social anxiety, and each time I stormed the stage, my confidence grew. And so I drank tons and tons of water … which I’m sure the bartenders just loved! 
 
So shout out to Sarah for getting me on that stage over and over again!

CHAPTER 4

There once was a girl named Samantha Stark. I met Sam in high school, and in addition to being a family friend, she and I had a reputation for being pretty goofy together. Over the years, we would occasionally sing when hanging out, but most of the time we intentionally tried to sound terrible in order to get a laugh out of each other.

So I was pretty surprised when she asked me to sing for her wedding in 2013. I was flattered by her request but felt nervous since it was such an important event and the opportunity felt way out of my league. However, I decided to go for it anyway.
 
I must have forgotten to tell my parents (who happened to be at the wedding that day) that I was singing, because a few seconds into starting my song, my parents turned to each other and asked, “Who’s singing?” That’s right, my parents had never heard my singing voice, and didn’t even know that I even sang!
 
So thank you Sam for having me perform at your wedding and giving my parents the opportunity to know what my singing voice actually sounded like for the first time! What a blast!

CHAPTER 5

Fast forward to 2016. After sailing through calm waters for a while, I suddenly entered a 3-year long desert season that dealt a series of crushing blows and painful realizations. It was as though life was being squeezed right out of me. I felt broken and alone in my pain; depression was never far behind. And it seemed that much had been dismantled, but I was determined to re-learn the language of love and put back the broken pieces stronger than before. 
 
And so a gift that emerged and infused life back into those shattered parts was the return to music. After reminiscing on my band geek days from a decade earlier, I decided to learn how to play a new instrument and set my sights on ukulele. It turned out that playing ukulele didn’t feel right without singing along, and so I quickly paired the two. This then opened the door to my dream and desire to learn piano. 

Cue Chad and Kim Ellefson. Chad and Kim were friends and mentors of mine since I was a teenager. They were my youth leaders in high school, sent me care packages in college, and invited me over for dinner well into my 20s. They were a steady presence in my life and led with extravagant generosity of their time, resources, and wisdom. They were almost like second parents to me.

So when I posted on Facebook to see if anyone was selling a keyboard, they responded. And in true Chad and Kim fashion, they gifted me their keyboard. That keyboard became the instrument I would use to write almost all my original songs from my debut album, and I continue to play it to this day.
 
So thank you Chad and Kim. Both for your love and support over the years, and for your generosity that made one of my dreams come true.

CHAPTER 6

Armed with my ukulele, piano, and rekindled love of singing, I took my music to the masses a few months after learning to play. My music could be found everywhere from beaches to living rooms, for friends at churches and for strangers on the streets, some solicited and some unsolicited. 
 
One location that definitely did not go untouched by the music was my former workplace. “Ukulele Friday,” a quickly-established tradition, involved me stationing myself in the hallway and playing my ukulele and singing while high school students walked by on their way to class on Fridays. The results were mixed – some students would dance and bob their heads along with the music, while others would keep their eyes glued to the ground in embarrassment. You can’t win em’ all, I guess!
 
After some time though, my solo gigs grew into group performances. A handful of times each year, usually around major holidays, my former co-workers and I would dress up in garish holiday attire and perform in high traffic areas around the school. I so enjoyed these moments of fun, and it always seemed the students enjoyed watching their teachers engage in this way.
 
So shout out to Dawn Bloomer, Ernie Brusubardis, and Attila Weninger for performing with me, and helping to create fun and music magic for the students!

CHAPTER 7

Though it may sound strange, as I continued to learn ukulele, piano, and sing along, I continued to feel a strange drive to sing publicly. It was as if something was telling me that I needed to push past my fear, though I didn’t fully understand it at the time.
 
And so right around the time I began performing for my students, I also began singing with my church worship band. I remember the first time rehearsing vocals with both Grace Lund and Ben Hall on a warm sunny day on an outdoor patio. They were incredibly welcoming, and it was amazing to create 3 part harmonies with such gifted singers. They encouraged me to push past my comfort zone vocally without the expectation of perfection, and their belief in me and my ability was reassuring.
 
Right before getting on stage for the first time that following Sunday, I expressed to Grace how nervous I felt to be singing in front of such a large crowd. Her response was laced with kindness and wisdom. She said, “What matters most is your heart posture when you’re up there, and the rest will take care of itself.” Her words were just what I needed to readjust my focus, calm my nerves, and make it through.
 
So thank you Ben and Grace for your leadership, wisdom, and encouragement. It was amazing to learn from you both!

CHAPTER 8

About a year into learning to play a few new instruments, I was invited to a creative arts conference near Chicago in the summer of 2017. While there, I got to attend a variety of workshops and sessions, but I was particularly drawn to the opportunity to sing for a panel of judges. Having just written my first original song, it seemed too good to pass up. And so, with my trusty ukulele in hand, I performed my song (which is track 3 on my debut album, by the way!).
 
Afterward, one of the judges asked, “Would you like to sing on my TV show?” I was taken aback by the question, but gladly accepted the invitation and made the TV appearance about a month later.
 
As time went on, that judge, whose name is
Gene Schmidt, continued to place more and more opportunities in my path. He invited me to perform for events in parks, theaters, and conferences, and opened the door to meeting an extensive network of singers and musicians. He is also a master networker and a quality human being.
 
So thank you, Gene, for believing in me and for opening up doors and opportunities that I couldn’t have done myself!

CHAPTER 9

Thanks to Gene Schmidt
(see chapter 9), doors were opened that led me to connect with 2 amazing ladies in the music world, Lydia and Lauren. 
 
I met Lydia Walker Athey at a singer-songwriter conference in 2018 that Gene invited me to. Lydia wears a ton of hats, including being a singer-songwriter, worship leader, and podcast host. As I’ve interacted with her over the past few years, it is clear that she is passionate about music, is kind, welcoming, and has a heart to help others succeed in their music. She is also a wealth of knowledge and came through for me recently when I had a time-sensitive question about my album release!
 
So Lydia, thank you for everything you bring to the music world and for being the amazingly kind person you are. You inspire me!
PS: you all should definitely check out Lydia’s podcast, called Rustic Bird Podcast!
 
As time went on and I kept receiving more pushes from Gene to “sing out” and consider recording my original music, I felt I needed some advice from Lauren Lee Anderson. Lauren and I have run in similar circles since around 2014, when I first got to know her as a worship leader. In addition to being a worship leader, she is a songwriter, an amazing singer, and has pursued some pretty amazing opportunities with music. And so around 2018, we sat down and had a conversation where she shared about her music journey and things she learned along the way. I left the conversation feeling both encouraged and inspired to be bold and deliberate in my steps.
 
So thank you Lauren for taking the time to share your wisdom and experiences with me!

CHAPTER 10

I can’t get through these chapters without mentioning some very important people… my parents. Since I was a kid, my parents had the beautiful gift of “showing up” for me, whether it was for my sports event in middle school, a band concert in high school, or driving 6 hours one-way to visit me at college a few times a year. They’ve always been willing make it work, even if it inconvenienced them or the event wasn’t all that important.
 
Well, that trait continued as my music journey moved forward in recent years, and I began performing more and more. They showed up for the major events and they showed up for the minor events. They showed up when I barely knew how to play my instruments, and they showed up when I sounded a bit more polished. They showed up to really anything they were able to – gigs at coffee shops, farmers markets, theaters, churches. They were invested enough to drive 2 hours roundtrip to see me perform for 15 minutes. And truth be told, sometimes their contribution to my tip jar took up a fairly large percentage of the total. That’s just who they are.
 
So thank you for your generosity of time and consistency of presence in my life, Mom and Dad. Your support of my pursuits means the world to me. I am so grateful for you!

CHAPTER 11

It was a beautiful August evening in 2018. Me and a friend had heard rumors about Blu Lounge and its gorgeous views from the 23rd floor overlooking downtown Milwaukee, so we decided to check it out. When we arrived downtown, we got pitifully lost on the street, not knowing which door to enter. Sensing that it’d take a while to find it on our own, I approached some strangers on the street and asked for directions.
 
As fate would have it, these strangers happened to be the jazz band on break from Blu Lounge. And while the band members personally escorted us to the 23rd floor, I asked on a whim if they needed a singer. They said yes.
 
After singing At Last by Etta James with them, I had a lengthy conversation with John Price, the upright bass player. John and I talked about everything from art, to music, to education (we were both teachers at the time), and at the end of the evening, he said to me earnestly, “I think there’s a reason we met.”
 
About six months later, I got an unexpected email from John. He mentioned that he recently became the director of programming for an up-and-coming creative arts hotel called Saint Kate – The Arts Hotel , and invited me be a summer performer. I said yes, and got to sing twice a week for the summer of 2019.
 
John, thank you for the music you bring to this world – you are a seriously gifted musician! And I am so glad that we met. Thank you for the incredible opportunities you opened up for me – it was the catalyst for some beautiful things to develop in my world!

CHAPTER 12

As my summer residency at Saint Kate Hotel progressed, I got to perform with some pretty cool people, including
Felix Ramsey.
 
For anyone who knows Felix, you would likely agree that he is a kind soul, fun to be with, and is an amazing singer. During my 3-4 hour long sets at St. Kate Hotel, Felix and I would often perform duets together. Because our personalities totally clicked, it was common for us to laugh a ton when we were together.
 
Another cool person I got to meet was Steve Peplin. After performing one evening at St. Kate Hotel, Steve introduced himself. We talked for a bit and he later invited me to attend his music composition class at MATC. Over the course of a few weeks, I learned that Steve was not only a talented guitarist (though it sometimes seems he plays every instrument!) and equally gifted professor of music, but he’s also a kind and down-to-earth human being.
 
When I told Steve that I was interested in meeting more people in the music world, he quickly introduced me to the great Tommy Gerlach. Tommy studied music composition at MATC and is one of the most talented electric guitarists I know (which is impressive considering his age!). I was a little bummed because the stomach flu got in the way of us performing together, but I hope we’ll have that chance someday soon!

CHAPTER 13

During that summer of singing at Saint Kate – The Arts Hotel, I recognized for the first time that performing was part of my identity. And, I also sensed a momentum shift in my world. Over the past 7 years, I had framed my identity as an art teacher, but I sensed God whispering something a little crazy to me: “Quit your teaching job.” I know, that may sound a little strange, and it should be stated that I don’t receive such drastic invitations on a daily basis. However, as I was grappling with a decision as high stakes as quitting my job, I figured I should get another opinion. And so me and a small group of wise ladies got together to talk and pray on it for a few days, and we all strongly sensed that this was indeed where God was leading me. So I said, “Ok let’s do this.”

One of the first things I did after quitting my teaching job and deciding to pursue music (and art) full time was invest in a real-life voice teacher. Up until that point, I didn’t have a single singing lesson (unless you count that month of chorus back in 5th grade!… see chapter 2). But it didn’t take long to discover Tim Rebers, who came with glowing recommendations. Tim is an incredible singer who is involved with a few theater companies in the Milwaukee area. He is also an equally gifted vocal coach. Part of what makes Tim’s teaching magical is his ability to transform abstract vocal techniques into easy-to-understand metaphors. His lessons are both fun and incredibly informative. 

So if you have ever considered pursuing singing lessons, Tim is your guy! So thank you, Tim, for helping me learn and grow vocally in the short amount of time I’ve known you!

CHAPTER 14

As I moved into the fall of 2019 as a self-employed woman, I realized that posting my singing videos using my built-in computer microphone and webcam just wasn’t cutting it anymore. I needed to step it up, but needed a little help navigating the tech side of things. 

Cue my friends Jeff Fleetwood and Josh Kay. 

Jeff is about as deep in the tech world as they come and creates cutting-edge virtual reality gaming and animation programming (it’s seriously amazing). As busy as he is, he generously loaned me his recording equipment and took the time to set it all up for me and teach me how to use it. He made himself available to answer any questions I had (which was often), and also helped set up a few websites. What does this guy not do?

My friend Josh also helped in significant ways. A singer and songwriter himself, Josh graciously loaned me his music interfacing system and a quality microphone. He also walked me through step-by-step (more than once) how to use GarageBand to create professional sounding recordings. And he answered all my redundant question (which were many). 

So huge thank you to Jeff and Josh. You two were so generous with your time and resources. Thank you for all you taught me and for making yourself available to me! 

CHAPTER 15

A dream I pondered for a few years but never followed through on was singing for senior citizens. However, that changed in the fall of 2019 when I met Malia Fischer and Kimberly Rosenau, who facilitate activity programming in senior living communities. 

One of my most touching memories was playing a show for a group of about 25 individuals, singing songs from the 1940s through the 1960s. Tucked away in the audience was a husband and wife in their late 60s or early 70s. It seemed the wife had lost her ability to talk and have normal cognitive function. She may have been there physically, but her old self was not present. The husband was there visiting his wife, and took over the job of nursing staff, feeding her dinner and adjusting her chair. 

When I started singing, he held her hand. And when I played a song embedded in their history, he turned to and engaged with his wife as he sang along. At times, she did not respond to his efforts and remained expressionless and slumped over. But in sweet moments, sometimes lasting mere seconds or a minute or two, a particular song would bring his wife back to her youth and restore the original parts of her. Her posture would straighten, her eyes lit up, and she flashed a huge grin. She didn’t even resemble the same person.

And then as a song would wind down, she would retreat back into her shell. But the husband stayed by her side, remaining steadfast in moments of disappointment while celebrating glimpses of connection. 

Getting to participate in moments of connection like this is an incredible privilege and something that deeply touches my soul. Thank you Malia and Kimberly for giving me the opportunity to pursue this, and for all you do to connect with and love your residents! 

CHAPTER 16

Thanks to the recommendation from Lauren Lee Anderson (see chapter 9) I discovered Blüm Coffee Garden and got on their list of performers in 2019. 

One of my favorite stories there stemmed from a potentially awkward situation. It came to light that I was not the only musician scheduled to be there one day; a glitch occurred and there ended up being a double booking – me and Shayne Steliga. Luckily we sorted it out pretty quick – I ended up staying inside to perform, and Shayne and his band performed on the outdoor patio.

About midway into my set while taking a break, I stepped outside to listen to Shayne’s performance. Well he noticed me in the back, and invited me to perform with him! We ended up singing Stand by Me by Ben E King. It was so fun to be spontaneously invited to perform with a band!

In addition to unplanned collaborations, I also got to meet a cool videographer at Blum – Ben Ryan. Ben has his own video company called Red & Teal, is a gifted videographer, and an overall quality human being. Ben shot some amazing music videos for me while performing at Blum . If you need some video work done, reach out to Ben. He does great work! 

CHAPTER 17

I’d like to recognize two amazing ladies in the music world – Allison Emm and Thea Morton Vorass. 

I met Allison through a networking event and fell in love with the creative mission behind her organization Wisconsin Music Ventures (WMV) – bring music to unusual places and venues. It has been so fun to see all the events she’s cooked up, and my personal favorite music gig so far was performing on an outdoor patio at the Sharon Wilson Center. Although the crowd itself was legendary, the best part was when my mom saved me from the 67 degree weather by bringing me a fuzzy blanket and cup of hot water midway through my performance. She absolutely loved when I had the crowd clap for her heroic actions

So thank you Allison! I’ve enjoyed interacting with you over the past year or so – you brings incredible creativity, intentionality, authenticity, and passion to your work. I’ve so enjoyed getting to play a small part within your vision! 

Onto the next amazing music lady – Thea Vorass. So I was told that I initially met Thea at St. Kate Hotel, but for some reason can’t recall the specific moment. In any event, I’ve seen her all over Milwaukee in a variety of capacities. She is super connected in the Milwaukee music world, plays cello in multiple bands, gives music lessons, and is passionate about bolstering musicians’ careers through Amplified Artist Sessions and ACA Music & Entertainment. And she has been an enormous help to me personally as I’ve been preparing to release my debut album! Oh and she played cello on my album…more on that later!

So thank you Thea for being an incredibly generous person when it comes to sharing your time and music wisdom. I couldn’t have done this without you!

CHAPTER 18

Blame it on my enneagram 7, but I love unplanned encounters. On a warm afternoon last summer, I strapped on my nerdy biking gear and set out on to ride on the trails. As I was peddling out of my neighborhood, I spotted a random guy singing and playing guitar on the street corner, amplified through a speaker. My curiosity was peaked, but I played it cool and rode right on past. 

But about .2 seconds later, I sensed that I needed to turn around and investigate this situation. And so I did. 

After awkwardly standing around with my bike on the sidewalk, I began talking with Diego Sanchez, the mystery man singing and playing guitar, his wife Christy, and their young daughter. We chatted it up for a bit, and then after mentioning that I sing, Diego invited me to perform with him. 

That was the first time since the start of the pandemic that I got to sing into a real microphone and perform live and in-person with another human. I’m not sure if anyone else in the neighborhood heard our performance, but it sure felt good to get back where I love to be!

The best part is that Christy and Diego Sanchez and I soon became friends, and I really enjoy who they are – they are fun, hospitable, and pretty funny!! Thanks for being super fun and cool, Christy and Diego!

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