Learning to Listen to My Heart

Katie KriedlerA Student’s Reflection on Selecting Music as a Career
By Katie Kriedler

The world has always encouraged us to “do what we love to do.” At age seven, I remember standing on stage in church to sing my first solo. Although I was incredibly scared of everyone (and my nerves were so bad that my legs were shaking), there was something bigger keeping me up on that stage. That was the first moment I decided that music was what I loved to do.

I was lucky enough growing up to have all the encouragement and inspiration a little girl could dream of. It has always been the people around me that have kept me moving forward—my mother, most of all. For as long as I can remember, my mother was driving me to and from hundreds of music practices, dance lessons, and dress rehearsals. She was the one who picked out the songs for my winning performances, the one who sat in the living room and listened to me practice over and over, and the face in the front row each time I got on stage.

I was also blessed in being surrounded by the best musicians during my time at school. Most importantly, my music teachers have been a huge impact. They are the ones who deserve the credit for my musical successes. Teaching me to sing or to play an instrument is one thing, but they have done so much more. They took a timid, seven year old girl who loved to sing, and instilled in her all the best qualities of determination, perseverance, and passion for music. There is no greater way to grow as a musician.

Junior year of high school is notorious for being the most difficult year for any high school student. My junior year, I was faced with many challenges in my life. I was trying to balance AP courses, running for student body president, auditioning for the school musical, and still trying to have a social life. I was applying for every scholarship I could get my hands on, deciding on one college, and choosing between majoring in something “realistic” or following my passion—music.

Meanwhile, my family was dealing with bad news that flipped our world upside-down. In June 2010, before the school year began, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. So this year, rather than getting rides to rehearsals, I was giving my mom rides to chemotherapy. Rather than being an average teenager at night, I was taking care of my ill mother. On Christmas Eve that year, my parents sat us down and told me, my brother, and my sister that there was nothing more the doctors could do—the cancer was terminal.

I lost so much when I lost my mother the next year. I lost my motivator, my inspirer, and my number one fan. The year ended with my decision to pursue something other than music. I turned all my musical ambitions into nothing more than a dream I once shared with my mom. I thought I was done with music, and that I could never follow my dreams without her.

During my first year at the State University of New York at Cortland, I heartbreakingly set aside music as a hobby. Yet no matter how much my studies piled up, I found myself craving to perform, reaching out for every opportunity to play my music. My friends and classmates noticed even before I did—they saw what my mother and teachers had always seen in me. Everything that I thought I had lost with my mother was actually still with me because of my music.

I am proud to say that I have chosen to pursue music as a career. It has carried me so far in my life, and I am excited to see where it can take me in the future. The way I see it is this: the world has always encouraged us to “do what we love to do.” But other forces in the world will tell us to “find a good paying job” or to “be more realistic.” We have to be careful of who we listen to. I chose to listen to those who love me and those who inspire me. And even more so, I chose to listen to the music in my heart.

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