Lauren Armstrong is an alumna of Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra. She graduated from Lawrence University with a degree in Saxophone Performance in 2014. She then studied Actuarial Science at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Lauren is currently working as an Actuarial Analyst for American Family Insurance in Madison, WI.
What years, and what ensembles did you play in during your time in MYSO?
I was in MYSO from September 2008 to May 2010. Both years I played bassoon in Senior Symphony and Chamber Ensemble.
What was your MYSO experience like? Did it influence your college career?
My MYSO experience was amazing and frightening at the same time. I loved being able to play orchestral music at such a high level with so many amazing musicians my age. Many of the pieces were probably the most difficult and fantastic music I encountered on bassoon. From side by sides with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, to travelling to Vancouver to playing Beethoven's Fifth, my experience with MYSO definitely made an imprint on my identity and was a major highlight of my musical career playing bassoon.
At Lawrence University, I studied saxophone performance and had gone in with bassoon performance as well, but dropped bassoon. I think my MYSO experience reinforced my passion for playing music at a high level and how meaningful collaborating with other fantastic musicians can be.
What was it like to study music at the college level? Did MYSO prepare you for that world?
There is no doubt that MYSO helped prepare me to study music at the college level. After I dropped my bassoon performance degree, it didn't take long for me to realize how much I was going to miss orchestral music. The most exciting part of studying music at college was music theory and music history. I loved the aspect of thinking critically and having such a familiarity with musical traditions and historical context to really understand the theory behind composers' decisions. Learning about all the rules behind music and the way our idea of what music should be, how it can be expressed, and different perspectives was so exciting for me.
What are you up to now? Any music or performing? Generally, how did your music training influence your life?
After college, I took the route most musicians do and I became an Actuary, per usual . . . I'm still trying to figure out how I want music to be a part of my life moving forward, but there is no doubt on whether or not it should be. From such a young age music was a language I understood, a medium I was drawn to and an outlet I find necessary. Music training has taught me so much about discipline, hard work, patience and how meaningful communication can be regardless of the medium.
Any advice for high school students considering pursuing music or the arts at the college level?
For high school students considering pursuing music or the arts at a college level, my advice would be to go for it. I will never regret music or arts being a part of my life. Yes, it was difficult at times, but there is no path that won't be. If it's something you are passionate about, it's worth pursuing.