Throwback Thursday: Life and Singing

9 years ago we were…229537_503493728374_2847_nSo much younger!

Dear sisters,

This picture has been on my mind for a Throwback Thursday post for awhile now. I love it because it shows such a milestone in my life–my first voice recital back in high school in 2006–and because it captures a moment when we were all on the cusp of big changes. Rachel and Martha had gotten married within the past two years and were both about to move across the country to Anchorage and Vancouver. Janna had started her life in Alfred and working at ACASA, getting into theater and setting her on the path to becoming a counselor! Esther was about to enter into her time at home as an only child and an overachiever, on her way to getting an amazing scholarship to become an engineer. I was about to head off to PYC, where I’d meet my future husband, and then I was off to college to start my training as a musician.  Mom and Dad were shepherding their 5 daughters into adulthood, watching us grow and move and change, and in the past 9 years have gone off on adventures of their own, living in Russia and China and gaining 4 grandkids with 2 more on the way. What a full 9 years we’ve had as a family.

We’ve also lost Grandma Grastorf in those 9 years, and that’s what makes this picture so bittersweet and special. I think it’s one of the last pictures I have of her out and about before her health and her mind declined. If I remember correctly, she had recently been moved from Florida up to Wellsville because her mental faculties were going. Here though, she still has her spark and liveliness. It felt like a special treat to have my Florida grandma at my voice recital. I always associated her with vacations, Christmas presents, funny swimsuits, and big boxes of citrus. Looking back I wish I could tell my younger self to have talked with her more, to have gotten to know her beyond the family legend that she was. But I was a shy kid who was more comfortable just knowing my grandparents were around and I soaked up the loving atmosphere of them, rather than trying to truly engage with them, and that’s a great thing too. We grew up with so much love around us, and I’m so thankful for that.

One of the other things I mull over when I see this picture is my relationship with singing. Here is the beginning of my singing journey. I was fairly naive to what it meant to be a classical singer and hoped to perform and make a living singing somehow. I loved being encouraged to perform and throughout my degrees I had tons of incredible musical experiences.

Getting to die onstage in the production of Kepler in Spoleto will always be with me :-).
Getting to die onstage in the production of Kepler in Spoleto will always be with me :-).

It was thrilling and fulfilling to sing in musicals and operas and choirs. I came to realize, however, that the degree programs I was going through gave a false sense of musical security. It seemed like once you were done with those programs, you should be ready and able to do whatever, to be on the path to singing your heart out wherever you wanted. I had to figure out what a life as a musician actually looks like for me, personally, not as an idealized goal that other people may have for me. I’m continuing to figure out what that looks like everyday/month/year and it looks nothing like what I expected it to, but it’s still great. For me, right now, singing is just a part of many things that make me happy. I love being able to sing in choirs, at church, share my knowledge of voice and music with students that I teach or coach, but being with my family/growing a baby/creating a new life and home with Kevin here in Wisconsin is also incredibly fulfilling for me. I have to remind myself of this every so often when I feel like I should be doing MORE, I should be SINGING ALL THE TIME, didn’t I take out lots of student loans and work my butt off for 6 years so I could be A SINGER!? This challenge of balancing family and music/career goals is tricky. I’m just trusting that in another 9 years I’ll be amazed at how much has happened, familially and musically, and I’ll still be content, surrounded by the love of my family and my love of music.

Love you all,


One thought on “Throwback Thursday: Life and Singing

  1. Jewel! I like hearing your thoughts on your career trajectory and motherhood. I think you will blend the two wonderfully. I think Martha and I saw ourselves being home more with kids and life didn’t turn out that way. You will find the right balance. Love you!

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