To Milwaukee from Punjab, by Way of Siberia

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by Ron Oshima

Photo: Courtney Wright

Meet Alexandra (Alex) Mueller. She plays the French horn in Senior Symphony and is graduating after four years at MYSO. Having been raised by two musician parents, she says “music is the glue that holds everything together for me. It makes you more aware of the world around you – physically and emotionally. It’s the food of life.” She listens to it. She dances to it. She composes it.

Her journey to Milwaukee is fascinating. She along with her twin sister Alaina (a MYSO bassoonist) were born in Siberia and adopted as orphans out of Russia when they were a year old. Through the magic of Ancestry.com, she found out that she has Romani-Gypsy bloodlines that can be traced back to the Punjabi region of northern India. The Roma people migrated out of the Indian subcontinent and fanned out across Europe, Asia Minor, and Asia in a diaspora that began around the 1st century AD.

Alex started with the Wind Ensemble. She considers MYSO her home away from home. She loves playing classical music and relishes the challenge of playing the pieces that the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra plays. She said, “I get to play with people who care about being at MYSO and about what they do. I’ve made some of my best friends at MYSO and have many great memories.”

She concedes that MYSO can be time consuming, and you must prepare for it. She has gone through the ups and downs of MYSO, and felt stressed out at times, but she views those stressful situations as part of the beauty of it all. She said, “It makes you realize how much you love it.”

Music and MYSO have been an important outlet for her vivid imagination and a sanctuary for her mental well-being. She sees the world through music and color. Composing allows her to create new worlds and new languages. “I have so much in my mind that I want to express, and music provides a portal for that.”

Her recent composition, Mabaj Nar Armauk (The Oath of Body and Axe), had its world premiere with the Wind Ensemble on May 21. Her mentor in the John Downey Creation Project was Dr. Christian Ellenwood. She said, “Dr. Ellenwood always encouraged me to bite off whatever came to my mind, despite my known tendency to bite off more than I can chew. Working together, we created something magical. He advised me to never fully erase, but instead put it off to the side in case something in the future compels me to use that idea. He was incredibly supportive.”

Photo courtesy of Alex Mueller

Alex plans to attend UW-Milwaukee and major in digital animation and music. But she confessed that what she’d really like to do is be a Cirque du Soleil performer. She got hyper-fixated on Cirque as a four-year-old when her mom took her to see a show in Florida at Disney World. “Oh, so you want to perform in their live ensembles,” I naively responded.

“No,” she replied. “I’d like to be an actual acrobatic performer in the circus.” Then she proceeded to tick off a list of several physical activities that she is involved in–dancing, contortion, hand-balancing, clowning, and banquine (look it up–human pyramids are one form of banquine). She’s been practicing contortion since the seventh grade.

No matter the medium, whether it’s music or Cirque du Soleil, exposure to the arts at an early age can lead to wonderful expressions of, and growth in, the human spirit. Who knows what else lies ahead that might capture Alex’s imagination? Arguably, she’s off to a good start.

Enable more students like Alex to soar! Give now at myso.org.

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