Marissa Lake

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That Marissa Lake’s future would involve music has never been questioned. Throughout her childhood, Lake’s growing musical finesse easily transferred from piano, to violin, to viola.

It also was no surprise when Lake found her voice. Singing, she says, allows her to express emotion in a more satisfying way than playing an instrument could, and so that is her talent of focus.

But what is a bit unusual is Lake’s ultimate aspiration: she dreams of becoming a professional opera singer.

“I live in Kenosha,” says Lake. “Coming from that area, there probably are not a lot of classical singers. It’s definitely a genre that a lot of people don’t gravitate towards. People want to sing musical theater, pop or country. But I like to think I am pushing classical music forward into the next generation to make sure it doesn’t die out. I fell in love with the classical genre.”

That love affair began to flourish when Lake attended Shoreland Lutheran High School in Somers. From the onset, Lake got involved in all that the music department had to offer. The Festival Choir, which at the time was directed by Pastor Tom Bauer, stirred her love of classical music and an appreciation of being a member of an ensemble.

“Pastor Bauer gave me plenty of performance opportunities, and he taught me how to sing and work with others,” she says, adding that his influence also helped her develop an appreciation for sacred music. Singing in church continues to be one of the ways Lake puts her talent into service.

Having the chance to work one-on-one with a voice coach at Shoreland also awakened Lake to new possibilities. “My voice teacher, Ben Jeske, had me perform in a competition called Diva Quest in Kenosha. I auditioned and made the top 10, which meant I could perform for a live audience.”

That experience solidified her resolve to seek a career in vocal music.

“It was my sophomore year, and I performed ‘Memory’ from the musical ‘Cats,’” Lake recalls. “I wasn’t expecting to place, and I ended up winning the competition. I remember the feeling. That was the first time I won. As I was crying, I decided this is what I want to do.”

Lake’s love of classical music burgeoned at Lawrence University in Appleton, where she is a junior in the Conservatory music program. The program has been challenging and intensive. But Lake says she has been well prepared for it by Shoreland Lutheran High School. In fact, it was a high school guidance counselor who planted the seed in her freshman year.

“It was my first year in high school, and Mr. (Jeff) Dorn handed me a pamphlet to Lawrence and said I might be interested,” Lake says. “At the time, I was just a freshman. I wasn’t even considering college yet. But then, in my junior or senior year, as I was doing auditions, I found the pamphlet. I decided to check it out.”

The fit was perfect, she says. “I went from a small high school with personal attention to a small university with a conservatory and a condensed vocal program where I can aim my concentration.”

Now, Lake is nearly at the end of her studies of both operatic vocal music and music pedagogy. She hopes to find a spot in an opera house someday.

“I just have to have singing in my life,” she says. “If I can do that and get paid for it, too, that would be a win!”