Hitting a High Note: Lawrence Freshman Alisa Jordheim Wins National Arts Program Award

Missing an entire week of school left Lawrence University freshman Alisa Jordheim so far behind on her school work, she had precious little time to spend worrying about what the judges thought of her performance.

Jordheim spent a week in Miami, Fla., in mid-January as a national finalist in the Arts Recognition and Talent Search (ARTS) program, but rather than finding out the results at the end of the program, participants are notified how they did by mail. Snail mail. After a week of waiting, Jordheim learned she could add the title of 2005 ARTS winner to her growing list of achievements.

A soprano, Jordheim was named one of four “Level I” national winners in the ARTS voice category following a week-long program of master classes, interviews, performances and enrichment activities in nine different disciplines. She received a first-place prize of $3,000 for her winning efforts and becomes eligible for a $10,000 ARTS Gold Award, which will be announced later this year.

“I’ve learned if you dwell too much on the end results, you run the risk of being disappointed,” said Jordheim, a 2004 graduate of Appleton North High School. “You go in expecting nothing, and then if the results are good, that’s icing on the cake.”

Jordheim was one of 130 finalists selected from an initial pool of nearly 6,500 students from 33 states, Canada and The Netherlands who applied for the program. She was one of 10 voice students invited to Miami from 943 applicants in the category. Finalists in the ARTS Week program do not compete head-to-head, but are judged individually against a standard of excellence established for each discipline.

William Banchs, president of the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts, which sponsors the ARTS Week program, called the students who are selected as finalists “the best of the best. They are our country’s artistic future.”

At the still tender age of 18, Jordheim, who has studied in the voice studio of Lawrence Associate Professor of Music Patrice Michaels the last eight years, has already compiled an impressive resume of musical accomplishments, including three consecutive first-place finishes in the National Association of Teachers of Singing competition. She said the ARTS Week program was unlike anything else she had ever experienced.

“We kept a very hectic schedule – 7 a.m. to at least midnight every night — and the entire week was filled with performances and activities. Each discipline had a showcase performance in which every artist performed as a soloist or displayed their works for all the participants, staff and the public,” said Jordheim, who along with Marcos Ortega, a senior at Wauwatosa East High School, were the only two students from Wisconsin to earn a finalist invitation to Florida. “As a vocalist, I sang in as many as four master classes and ‘coachings’ a day in addition to my showcase performance and audition, which were the two main factors of judging.

“I felt truly honored to be invited as a finalist to Miami and I am so thankful to have met all the genuinely talented artists who were there with me,” she added.

Among many highlights in her young career, Jordheim has performed with pianist Christopher O’Riley at the International Young Artists Music Festival, sang as a soloist at the Xian Conservatory of Music in China, performed on Public Radio International’s “From the Top,” singing duets with Bobby McFerrin and been featured in McGraw/Hill’s latest 8th-grade music textbook.

First conducted in 1981, the ARTS Week program is open to high school seniors and other 17- and 18-year old artists. Student vocalists, actors, dancers, filmmakers, classical and jazz musicians, photographers, writers and visual artists vie for individual cash awards ranging from $100 to $3,000, as well as the opportunity to share in a $3 million college scholarship package.