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Alumna Wins National Award for Musical Performance

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Alumna Wins National Award for Musical Performance

A few years ago, UMD alumna Gaelynn Lea found herself wishing that she had a skill that could develop into a career. She was humble about her own musical talents, but a friend contested that she already had an incredible skill – the ability to play violin. Several months later, Gaelynn Lea Music was open for business, offering both violin and fiddle lessons to the Duluth community.

Gaelynn has been playing the violin for over twenty years and instructing children and adults in the Canal Park neighborhood of Duluth for three. She graduated in 2008 with a degree in Political Science and minor in Psychology. At UMD, she was involved with the Minnesota Public Interest Group (MPIRG) and Access for All, which promotes disability awareness. Gaelynn herself was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, or Brittle Bones Disease, and shares on her website that she “uses her music as a platform to advocate for people with disabilities and to promote positive social change.”

In 2007, Gaelynn and two other students, Marilyn Simerson-Wallfred and Rachael (Juntune) Stigsell, created the Deaf Studies minor that UMD offers today. Gaelynn was responsible for writing the proposal and deciding what the minor would entail. After petitioning, a public forum for administrative staff was held and the minor was eventually approved. By dedicating their time and effort, Gaelynn and these two other students continue to impact the career paths of many UMD students.

A few weeks ago, Gaelynn added another accomplishment to her impressive list of achievements as the winner of the Tiny Desk Contest. The Tiny Desk Contest is a nationwide competition, sponsored by National Public Radio (NPR). This year, there were over 6,000 video submissions, and Gaelynn’s unique sound, touching lyrics, and evident passion for music made her stand out. Her original song “Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun” was remarked as “unforgettable” by the judges.

The inspiration for “Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun” was Gaelynn’s husband, Paul Tressler, and she wrote the lyrics over a year ago. The decision to play this song can be credited to the crowd of Bulldog Pizza & Grill in Duluth. At Gaelynn’s bi-weekly gig, she played three potential songs for her Tiny Desk submission and asked the Bulldog’s crowd to root for their favorite. When prompted, the crowd chose “Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun.”

Several days later, Gaelynn and a friend collaborated on creating the contest winning video, taking a total of 45 minutes. Currently, the video of “Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun” has over 400,000 views on Youtube.

After being titled winner among 6,000+ musicians, Gaelynn traveled to Washington D.C. to perform at NPR. The Tiny Desk Concert included a set list of four songs and the guest count was roughly 200 – the crowd consisting of NPR staff, family, and college friends. After the concert, there was a reception held in Gaelynn’s honor to celebrate her outstanding and well-deserved achievement.

The journey continues with the Tiny Desk Tour which entails Gaelynn performing in Brooklyn, N.Y., on April 26 & 27; Chicago, Ill., on May 3; Portland, Ore., on May 9; and
Petaluma, Calif., on May 10. When asked about her experiences thus far as the Tiny Desk winner, she shared that it has been extremely humbling and such an incredible honor.

On top of being a business owner and talented musician, Gaelynn is an active public speaker. Her topics focus on disability awareness, overcoming challenges, entrepreneurship, authentic living, and the importance of music.

UMD Alumna – Award Winning Musician – Fiddle Teacher – Public Speaker. Needless to say, Gaelynn Lea is an outstanding individual filled with talent and ambition.

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