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50 Years of Alumni: Lani Willis

College(s)/University attended:
Luther College and the University of Hawai`i at Manoa

What years were you in GTCYS?
1989-1990; graduated in 1990

What skills or lessons did you learn in GTCYS that you still use today?
I was only in GTCYS (Symphony) for my senior year, but that year was one of the best musical experiences of my life. Beyond the incredible privilege of music making, it contributed to my sense of values, and how I wanted to be in the world. GTCYS inspired me to excellence – through the example of my peers, and the patient but unrelenting expectation of my conductor; it built an understanding of being a part of something bigger than myself; it taught me the responsibility and honor of bringing my very best effort, commitment and soul to that larger purpose.

Why do you think GTCYS is important for students now?
For all the same life lessons I learned, but also for discovering the joy and pleasure of making music with others, for others. During the pandemic, I certainly have learned how precious the sharing and receiving of live music is to me, and I think to many others.

How does music still play a part in your life?
I work in the arts (as VP, Advancement for MN Opera) and I still play my flute and piccolo in the St. Cloud Symphony Orchestra. My kids both play piano and sing in choir, and my daughter started trumpet this year!

What is your favorite composer or piece of music?
That is really hard to answer, because it depends on the day. But I never tire of Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

What’s a fun fact about yourself?
I love to scuba dive.

What do you hope to see from GTCYS in the next 50 years?
Continued opportunities for kids to learn to love making music together, and to learn about themselves in the process. I hope GTCYS Symphony continues to tour internationally. I was lucky to be able to go on two tours, and they contributed to my understanding of the world.

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