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All Minnesotans

walk on water, don'cha know...

My Story

I grew up in rural central Ohio, where I enjoyed running through the woods to my favorite spots by the ponds and creeks.  Civilization was three miles away on a one-lane tar road---a town with one stoplight.  On really hot summer days I would splash around in West Darby Creek under the covered bridge.  Only the sound of the dinner bell called me back home.

I am the youngest of four children.  We all received seven years' compulsory piano instruction, after which I chose to continue.  We played in band, and I sang in the Methodist Church choir as well as school choirs.  My father wisely packed a double layer of insulation into the walls of a music room addition to the house.  Yet somehow my mother could hear what was going on from her adjacent sewing room, because she would bang on the wall to scold me for ranting on about wrong notes during practice sessions...

In tenth grade, I began taking horn lessons with Nicholas Perrini, then Principal Horn of the Columbus Symphony and horn instructor at Capital University.  Small wonder that I decided to attend Capital Conservatory for undergraduate studies.   At the same time, I was learning valuable skills playing piano and singing harmony in a local bluegrass/country band - love that music still.

At Capital, I met my future husband - David Schmalenberger, an awesome jazz drummer and percussionist. Over the course of thirty years together, we have navigated our way through various graduate degree programs, eventually settling in Minnesota around 1985. Dave and I both taught music for many years at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and we perfomed as members of the Duluth-Superior Symphony under the direction of Taavo Virkhaus.   In addition, I taught horn and some ad hoc courses at the College of St. Scholastica, where I discovered the wonderful world of hand horn through performances with the Early Music Orchestra and wind quintet.  It was in Duluth that I realized my passion for teaching at the college level.

Our move to St. Paul/Minneapolis occurred in stages, beginning with my commuting weekly to Minneapolis for PhD studies in musicology.  This led to my employment in 2002 at the University of St. Thomas, where I serve as the Music Department's musicologist and horn instructor. Dave gradually transitioned away from UM-Duluth to McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, where he serves as the Assistant Head of the Percussion Department.


We reside now in Mendota Heights.  I am thrilled that the house is surrounded by echoes of my beloved woods in Ohio.  Music has long connected me to the best of those woodland memories - a time and place that, for me, epitomized the sound of God's sanctuary.  I still often imagine myself calling out to those woods with my horn, connecting with the forest for inspiration and healing.


Why a PhD in musicology, given my love for the horn?  Both paths are synergistic in my life's journey as a "seeker."  Whether alone in the practice room, an archive, or my writer's room, I treasure quiet spaces that nurture my creativity.  Musicians generally are a reclusive lot anyway, and perfectionists too, so it wasn't much of a stretch to apply these qualities toward the development of research and writing skills as a scholar.   And yet, to keep the creative spirit alive within me, I must share it with others.  Thus my passion for teaching forms the third component of my career; each one (teaching, performance, research) informing the other.

The convergence of performance and scholarship also speaks to my more pragmatic side:  Early on in my career, I realized the precarious nature of freelance work in both performance and education fields. A doctorate in musicology seemed a wise investment into securing employment that could support my "music habit."  Studio enrollment waxes and wanes, as do horn gigs if you don't have a full-time contract;  but there will always be a need for someone to teach classroom courses related to music history!  It brings me supreme joy to teach horn and history.   Plus, I actually dig conducting research.  

I feel extremely fortunate that I can enjoy a life defined by MUSIC.  To have found a lifelong partner who is cut from the same cloth, well, that's nothing short of miraculous.  To have an abundance of allies, mentors, colleagues, and friends speaks to me of an overwhelming testimonial of Grace - especially given the perils of the music industry. Have there been obstacles?  Certainly.  Enemies?  Oh yes.  Wanted to quit?  Many times.   I often relied on these wise words, shared with me by a friend of Bill Wilson:  "Don't quit five minutes before the miracle."







Dave, my spouse of 36 years, and a heckuva drummer/percussionist

Dimah and Taz

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