Copyright © 2021 · All Rights Reserved · Kat Auburn
Music Lite by Organic Themes
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
Sign up for occasional updates and fun bits.