Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan


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International Music Series – Combining Music and Identity

Chris Reed
Lyz Jaakola holding her guitar at the DuFresne Performing Arts Center. She wrote her own song on guitar and sang it. She teaches music education and American Indian Studies at a community college.

Faces light up in the Winona State University (WSU) Recital Hall at the sound of a drumbeat, as steady as a heart. The excitement in the audience fills the air, meeting Elizabeth “Lyz” Jaakola with the same energy that she brings to the table. Her voice rings out loud and clear in the silent Recital Hall.

On Sept. 6, the first performance of this year’s International Music Series took place at WSU. This particular performance of the series showcased the talent and culture of the Ojibwe tribe.

Aaron Lohmeyer, the Music Education Coordinator at WSU, found that the International Music Series is about more than just music, but it is to provide a deeper look into respective cultures and how they use music.

“They come, and they talk about what becoming a musician looked like for them in their respective cultures,” Lohmeyer said. “They represent different parts of the globe, but all the artists are Minnesota based too, which is really neat, so it really displays global and local identity at the same time.”

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The International Music Series is an event that has been going on at WSU for close to 20 years. It lines up with the Cultures of Music class, but its importance can be extended beyond that one class. Not only can Music and culture be extended beyond a class here at WSU, but it can also be extended past the traditional sense of music many people have.

“A lot of times when we think about music we think about a concert, but around the world, really, even in our own back yard, music is a lot more than just going to a concert,” Lohmeyer said. “It’s that it stretches the idea of music beyond just the sounds we enjoy. It really shows how music can be an expression of identity.”

Elizabeth “Lyz” Jaakola is one of the people who not only uses music to express her identity, but also to teach people about the Ojibwe tribe and bridge the gap between American and Native cultures. She comes from a mixed background with her dad being Finnish-American and her mom being Ojibwe. Jaakola has firsthand experience growing up on the Reservation with a background that can sometimes cause rifts between the two cultures.

For her, the International Music series and teaching about her Native culture is a way to mend rifts between cultures and bring people together through music.

“Growing up on the I know that there are some misconceptions that can cause not so pleasant relationships, and the more we know about each other, the better we treat each other,” Jaakola said.

Jaakola’s lifelong background with both teaching and performing allows her to bridge the gap between cultures and provide a new perspective on Native cultures from more than just a musical standpoint; allowing people who aren’t particularly knowledgeable in music to understand the cultural impact music has on Native people and the world surrounding them.

“It’s that it stretches the idea of music beyond just the sounds we enjoy,” Lohmeyer said. “It really shows how music can be an expression of identity.”

The international Music Series is ongoing throughout the semester, having three more performances and shows of culture in the upcoming months. The next performance of the International Music Series is on September 28 by Sowah Mensah, a Ghana, West Africa performer. The performing of the International Music Series allows cultural gaps to be bridged, not just by music but by the education that comes with it.

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About the Contributors
Alayna Majkrzak, News Reporter
Alayna Majkrzak (she/they) is a first-year at Winona State University and is a news reporter here at The Winonan. Majkrzak is a CALT (Communication, Arts, and Literature Teaching) major and is minoring in theatre.   In their spare time, they enjoy crocheting, reading and writing. Though, all these activities are preferably done in a comfortable sweater while listening to their favorite playlist or watching Ghost Adventures. Back at home, Majkrzak was involved in their school newspaper for four years, and they are incredibly excited to continue their passion for honesty through journalism in college.  
Chris Reed, Photographer
Chris Reed (he/him/they/them) is currently a photographer for the Winonan.
Reed is from Golden Valley, Minnesota, right outside Minneapolis and is a first-year student at Winona State University studying psychology with a minor in photography. He enjoys helping people and making sure they feel heard.
Reed can often be found rock climbing or bouldering; hiking; camping; playing pool, ping pong or board games; practicing cello or bass; or, when time allows, on a roadtrip.

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    Gracee MajkrzakSep 13, 2023 at 10:25 am