Cedar Grove-Belgium graduate heading to UWM to pursue musical dream
If you asked Katie Gruell two years ago what her career aspirations were, she would have said she was going to law school.
Then she started taking voice lessons with Wendelin Lockett in Cedarburg and everything changed.
In fact, Kohler Foundation representatives decided that the recent Cedar Grove-Belgium High School graduate has such a good voice, she was awarded the Ruth DeYoung Kohler Scholarship for the Arts to continue her music career at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Peck School of the Arts.
She plans to study vocal performance and vocal education with the $40,000 award.
“I had taken piano lessons for many years and just thought I’d add on singing lessons for fun,” Gruell said. “I soon realized this was my passion.”
She was involved in the school play and forensics in high school, so she has always been comfortable in front of a crowd.
“I discovered a lot about myself over the past four years of high school,” Gruell said. “Most people dread talking in front of others, but I love it.”
To earn the scholarship, Kohler representatives filmed her at a voice lesson. After she made the first round of cuts, Gruell had to fill out an application for the award and was one of four finalists chosen.
She interviewed at the American Club in Kohler and performed in front of scholarship representatives.
“They surprised me with a scholarship at our scholarship night,” Gruell said. “It was overwhelming to say the least.”
Two weeks ago, Gruell placed eighth at the Schmidt Youth Vocal Competition in Chicago singing classical opera.
“Growing up I was always singing around the house, but it’s never something I considered as a career choice,” she said. “My parents have been very supportive throughout the whole process.”
Gruell said her ultimate goal is to sing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
Even if she doesn’t reach that lofty goal, she plans to keep performing and teaching students.
“I think teaching would be a great job,” she said, noting her high school choir teacher, Linda Ruona, let her teach some classes and run youth singing camps.
Ruona said Gruell’s love of music and performing is obvious.
“Katie has been a role model to many young singers in the choir program and the program has grown stronger because of her leadership,” she said.
Ruona is confident Gruell will succeed in anything she tries.
“I am extremely grateful to have had Katie as a student, and I know she will make Cedar Grove-Belgium proud in her work at UW-Milwaukee and beyond.”
Gruell chose UW-Milwaukee over Carthage College in Kenosha, despite her grandfather being a former head of the music department at the private school.
“Milwaukee felt like home when I went there,” she said. “I could see myself being there and thriving.”
Image information: KATIE GRUELL sang in front of voice coach Wendelin Lockett during a voice lesson in Cedarburg last week. Gruell will attend UW-Milwaukee, majoring in vocal performance and vocal education in part from a $40,000 Ruth DeYoung Kohler Scholarship for the Arts. Photo by Sam Arendt