Covering the Chippewa Valley’s arts and entertainment scene for the last 1½ years has been an eye-opening experience. I’ve gotten to dive deep into what makes our community tick: the artists, musicians, writers and actors who help our creative economy thrive. It’s been glorious.
I’ve learned so much about the supportive local music scene, the thriving community theater groups and the multitude of writers groups. What I’ve learned the most? How much this city’s residents want to see each other succeed.
Sure, there’s some competition, but the overriding response is to lift each other up — to, as the adage says, climb the ladder and then turn around and bring up the person behind you.
It’s motivating to see, and even more so to share those stories. I’m grateful to have been able to.
The most inspiring part is watching these people follow their passions, and it has helped me find the strength to pursue my own.
Unfortunately, I’ve realized recently that involves leaving the place I’ve called home for seven years.
Today is my last day as the Leader-Telegram’s resident entertainment writer.
It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to the connections I’ve made and such a vibrant arts community. It’s difficult to let go of a position I’ve loved and made my own during my time here.
For example, readers have rallied behind the short listing of weekend events I suggest each Thursday, titled “Cues From Katy.” I had no idea the positive response I’d get to something that seemed, to me, so simple. And it turns out the list is just another excuse for me to boast about all of the cool things taking place each week in this city.
Following Chris Kroeze on his journey to success also has been incredible — I’m so grateful for him choosing NBC’s “The Voice” to show off his musical talents to the nation and ultimately be named season 15’s runner up. Congrats, Chris, on your incredible success. I can’t wait to see where it takes you from here.
Getting emails from musicians and artists and photographers with ties to Eau Claire from as far away as New York City and Los Angeles has been humbling to see the impact our community has made on people across the country. Several months ago, the entertainment editor for the Chicago Sun-Times (also a Memorial High School graduate) emailed to inform me that a Stanley native had a role in producing and acting on another NBC show, this time the sitcom “A.P. Bio.”
Interviewing Charlie McCrackin about the comedy scene in the Midwest and how that translated to Los Angeles was eye opening to me, learning about the actual work it takes to create a television show.
I loved sharing that story with our readers, but even more so it inspired me about the various possibilities open to my career and multiple ways of getting there.
I’ve also been inspired by a local man’s dedication to creating the nonprofit hip-hop group CollECtive Choir to bring music and togetherness to people who need it most.
Just last week I was overwhelmed once again with how vast Eau Claire’s reach is when native Spencer Wells contacted me to inform me he edited a book about the entire state’s music scene — and much of it centered on Eau Claire.
My job has been exciting, inspiring, overwhelming, exhausting, difficult, challenging and rewarding. It’s taken me on some early morning adventures and to some late-night office “parties” (hello, election nights).
But far and wide, the thing I still love — the thing I will always love most about reporting — is sharing those stories. It’s finding out that, just by having the ability to listen, people are willing to open up to you.
Sometimes the people I interview are giddy with excitement about being highlighted in the local newspaper (don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s a struggle to convince a source to even want to be in the paper, but that’s a song for another time).
Sometimes they can’t believe their story even warrants a story.
Sometimes, after I write a piece, I get notes of gratitude for sharing a subject’s story, or shining a light on an overlooked corner of our community.
Often these people are excited to be in the newspaper, and they think I’m doing them a favor. But what I’ve learned most from this job is how much people can teach you.
There’s a quote I love from author Ellie Braun-Haley: “Often we set out to make a difference in the lives of others only to discover we have made a difference in our own.”
I came into this job wanting to make an impact on the arts and entertainment community. I think, and hope, I have.
But I’m leaving it realizing how much of an impact you all have made on me.