As a Student: From the cities to the greatest lake

Illustration by Karli Kruse

Illustration by Karli Kruse

A year ago I transferred from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities to the Duluth campus, and the impact positively changed my life.

Initially, I absolutely hated living in Duluth. Duluth felt small and too much like a hometown for me to enjoy it. I missed living in the big city. I am from a small town, and moving to a large metropolitan area was always a dream I had for my life. So to have to tear myself away from obtaining that dream was heartbreaking. I missed my friends, and I missed Minneapolis. I was angry at how things had turned out for me and I wanted nothing more than for college to be over. I isolated myself and struggled to find “my place” in Duluth. I was seriously unhappy.

When I started college at the U of M Twin Cities, I had made the most amazing friends, which made it tremendously difficult to leave Minneapolis behind. I had a great roommate, a great dorm experience, I was in a film club I enjoyed, and I left that year having created more positive memories than negative. But I knew that I wasn’t happy with my education.

Initially, I was not studying music, and it made me feel out of place. Music has always been the biggest thing in my life. I was classically trained as a pianist for eleven years, and competed in piano competitions as a child. So deciding whether or not to major in music was more or less a no brainer for me.

Even though I have received classical training, my heart has always been in songwriting in the pop & country genre’s. I have written songs since I was twelve.

I was in the process of auditioning for the School of Music, but the further into the audition process I got, the more I realized that my style of music was not something they actively cultivated in their students. I write pop songs and have a strong background in musical theatre, so applying to a classical School of Music clearly wasn’t going to work out. Since I had neglected my research, I was blindly aiming for a goal that wasn’t meant to come to fruition.

All of this was a huge blow to my confidence. Deep down, I knew that I wasn’t a strictly classical musician, and I needed to be honest with myself. I have always been an extremely driven person and believed that if you work really hard for something, it was bound to turn out in your favor. This was not the case with my college education. And although I completely threw myself into theatre and music at the U of M Twin Cities, in the end, it wasn’t meant to be.

Before I considered transferring to UMD, I heavily considered dropping out of college. I was truly stuck. I cried a lot. I felt saddened by the lack of support from my friends who, in their defense, really had no idea I was struggling so much. But ultimately, when I auditioned for the school of music at UMD in late March, I felt a significant pull that was difficult to ignore. And believe me, I tried.

A year later my life is very different, but in a very good way.

I applied and made it into UMD’s Honors Program, and received an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Project (UROP scholarship) that I plan to use to study how Broadway Musicals are conceived and written, along with writing and drafting my own version of one as an experiment. I am excited to see what happens.

I received a scholarship to study abroad in May 2019 with the School of Fine Arts in Italy, completing my Advanced Music History course while our traveling classroom explores the beautiful country. This will be my second time having travelled to Europe for music.

I have successfully integrated myself into the School of Music at UMD and I strongly believe I made the right choice. At the end of the year, I was nominated for the “Outstanding Musician” award. I was blown away, truly. I would have never even been nominated if it wasn’t for my friends and professors who helped me with my music courses and put in their valuable time to help me succeed.

I have incredible professors and have found my educational experience to be one of much more growth, both academically and personally, than the one I had at the U of M Twin Cities. I have nothing but love for Minneapolis, though. I am grateful for what I learned during my first year of college and truly believe that the experience served a purpose in my life.

Although it took me a while, I eventually found friends both inside and out of the music department. A huge light in my life was joining UMD’s Student Association, where I currently serve as the senator for the School of Fine Arts. I made so many amazing friends through UMDSA, and I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by such a motivated and kindhearted group of people. I learned to lean on others for support, and they helped me in a lot of ways and they didn’t even know. Between offering me rides, and helping me move to a new house halfway through the school year — I opened myself up to allowing others to help me instead of putting everything on my shoulders all the time. I left Duluth in May feeling like I had truly conquered an enormous challenge.

For the summer, I moved back to Minneapolis and am currently working as a music intern and usher for Historic Theatre Group (It’s the organization that runs the State, Pantages, and Orpheum theaters on Hennepin Ave!), where I get to observe amazing artists every time I “work.” I love my job, and I gush about it whenever I get the chance. I mean, how can I complain when I get paid to watch Brodway shows? Additionally, I was hired to intern for Hopewell Music Cooperative North, a non-profit music organization based in North Minneapolis.

It’s been interesting yet wonderful to be back in Minneapolis for the summer. Ultimately it was a blessing to be to see everything come full-circle. I feel extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to reunite with old friends and spend time in the city for the hot months. Consequently, I am excited to travel up north for the upcoming school year come late August.

If you read this far, thank you for your attention. I want to express my love and gratitude to those who have supported me throughout this very difficult, yet fantastic year of growth. I feel very fortunate to do what I do, the way I do it. I have some projects in the works (including recording some of my original songs) and I am looking forward to supporting my fellow artists in their projects and creative endeavors, both in the Twin Cities as well as Duluth.

At the end of the day, all I want is to create and put great art out into the world. Whether that art is a painting, a recorded music project, a reformed social condition, or anything else, the only real goal worth chasing is make sure that whatever we do, it fosters hope and encourages people to grow and move forward.

There is enough space in this world for everyone to achieve success, and there is no use in competing with one another. I am so fortunate to have many amazing, artistically-inclined friends who are in on the same mission, and my hope is that many other young artists will choose to feel inspired by their peers and cheer on each other’s successes. We will all be better because of it.

“I am not interested in competing with anyone. I hope we all make it.” — Erica Cook

VoicesRachael Nunemacher