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Stillwater Christian senior lives a musical life

May 27, 2019

[Editor’s note: This is the third article in a weeklong series recognizing noteworthy graduates from the Class of 2019. This year’s series highlights students who are finding ways to make a difference in their communities and the lives of others.]

By MARY CLOUD TAYLOR

Daily Inter Lake

People are innately musical, according to Stillwater Christian School senior Elsa Michelsen of Kalispell.

At 18 years old, Michelsen said she’s learned that music is a part of people, a gift meant to be shared.

Since she started taking piano lessons at age 5, music has filled Michelsen’s house, where she lives with her mother, Elizabeth, and dog, Pebble.

When she was in the fourth grade, her band teacher encouraged her to begin learning a second instrument.

Under his instruction, she took up the oboe, one of the most difficult instruments for a young musician to learn.

A nearly straight-A student, Michelsen said she’s always been one to challenge herself.

Michelsen said pride in her work drove her to work hard at everything she did. However, as a freshman in high school, she said it also kept her from sharing her music with others.

“Pride is actually at the root of not wanting to show, because you’re worried about what other people think of you,” she said.

She enjoyed music and playing her instruments, she said, but it was something she preferred to keep to herself.

She credited the teachers at Stillwater, specifically those in the music program, with helping her understand music as a connection to her Christian faith.

After telling her band teacher she hoped no one would show up for her oboe solo at a competition her freshman year, she received advice she’s never forgotten.

“You need to be humble enough to share your music with others,” her teacher told her.

“Ouch,” she thought, but believed he was right.

“I think it goes deeper than just music as an outlet or a stress reliever,” she said. “God gave us music as a gift, so we should use it.”

Through music, she learned, flows integrity, love and humility, three things she said she’s grown in since taking up music.

“It takes humility to be able to share in front of people,” she said.

Since deciding to delve deeper into music through performance and study, Michelsen said she has grown in her understanding of how integral music is in people’s lives.

“I view it as a way to show God’s glory,” she said. “It really reveals His character in a unique way.”

As a senior, she said she got the opportunity to explore that relationship between people, music and God in her senior thesis project, entitled “An Investigation and Interpretation of Innate Human Musicality.”

“God created all men as intrinsically musical, and musicality is thus necessary for man’s proper relationship with God,” her thesis stated.

Though most of her classmates looked forward to graduation, scheduled for May 31, and dreaded the thesis project, Michelsen felt the opposite.

She savored the opportunity to share with her teachers and classmates the many lessons her musical education at Stillwater taught her. Graduation, she said, would be bittersweet.

“I don’t want to leave all the memories and the teachers I’ve grown close with,” she said. “I’ve loved this school.”

One of her class’s two salutatorians with a GPA of 3.95, Michelsen plans to major in music at Whitworth University in Spokane and play in Whitworth’s orchestra.

She aims to learn as much as she can as a music major, she said, before eventually transitioning into veterinary school to pursue a career working with her second love - horses.

To help her on her way, Michelsen won the Glacier Symphony Scholarship after playing with the symphony as a student instrumentalist.

She also received two scholarships for her performances on piano and oboe in a regional competition this year.

A self-described teachers’ pet, Michelsen said she will miss her teachers at Stillwater when she graduates.

As college approaches, however, she said looks forward to the opportunity to continue learning.

Twenty-four students are set to graduate from Stillwater Christian School at 6:30 p.m. May 31 in the gym.

Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or mtaylor@dailyinterlake.com.

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