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NWU student explores the healing power of music
Cecelia Hastreiter (’19) has been singing since before she could talk. At least that’s what she’s been told. For as long as she can remember, music has flowed through her veins and lit up her heart. Now, she wants to give that joy back to others.
Cecelia has witnessed firsthand how powerful music can be.
Her grandfather was Denny Schneider, a renowned trumpeter who taught at UNL for 36 years. He was a mentor, friend and inspiration to generations of musicians, and known for his motivational one-liners like, “Straight ahead, kid.”
Cecelia vividly remembers him playing the trumpet for her as a young girl. She loved to sing along.
When she was six years old, her grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. After that, their connection to music began to deepen. They started using music to communicate.
“Singing or playing music for him would always bring him back for a few seconds, sometimes even minutes,” Cecelia said. “It felt magical. There were times he didn’t know who we were, but if you put a trumpet in front of him, he would pick it up and play. I remember one time after singing to him, he suddenly looked up at my mom and said, ‘I love you, kid.’ It made me realize that music connects us. Music overcomes all boundaries.”
Cecelia knew she wanted to study music in college, but didn’t exactly know what she wanted to do with it. Her entire family had attended UNL, so she assumed she would as well. But while competing at the All-State music performance competition her sophomore year of high school, she met with Jon Peterson, a music recruiter for NWU. He planted Nebraska Wesleyan in the back of her mind. When she later found out she could receive both academic and music scholarships, NWU moved up to the top of her mind.
“I never thought I could afford to come here, but then all of a sudden it was possible,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wow, they really want me to be here.’ Scholarship support has lightened my financial burden and allows me to grow musically, build confidence and inspires me to keep pursing my dreams.”
Cecelia was in her first year at NWU when her grandfather passed away. It was February 3rd, coincidentally the day the music died back in 1959. For many in the Lincoln community, the music died again.
The Lincoln Symphony Orchestra commissioned a tribute to him called “The Mentor,” which was performed at the Lied Center.
At his funeral, Cecelia steadied her trembling voice and sang “Ave Maria.”
“Straight ahead, kid,” her grandfather would have said.
During the recessional his students lined the church playing their trumpets.
Cecelia realized how many people loved her grandfather—how many people he influenced. At that moment, she knew she wanted to be a performer and a teacher like him—to inspire others through performance and ultimately explore the healing powers of music.
At Nebraska Wesleyan, she followed that vision and set out on a clear path. She will graduate in May with a degree in music performance and a minor in psychology.
While at NWU, Cecelia has had opportunities to perform in opera, jazz choir, chamber choir, University choir, and Professor of Music Bill Wyman’s church choir (her first professional opportunity). She discovered a new interest in research thanks to Associate Professor of Music John Spilker. And she credits Director of Opera Dawn Krogh for believing in her and encouraging her through ups and downs.
Cecelia is a member of the psychology honorary, Psi Chi, and serves on the executive council of the music honorary, Mu Phi Epsilon. She is a student ambassador, tutors at the Cooper Center, and spent a summer studying music in Cuba. In her spare time, she volunteers around Lincoln. Most memorable was singing for cancer fighters and survivors at the Angels Among Us charity banquet.
“I could see how my voice touched them, but what they didn’t know is that they truly touched me,” she said. “They were smiling and had so much joy and perseverance despite their struggles.”
Once again, she witnessed music overcoming adversity.
In the summer of 2018, Cecelia traveled to Italy thanks to the Finigan Summer Program Grant, which is generously funded by Liana Sandin (‘81) and the Pearle Francis Finigan Foundation. In Italy, Cecelia had the chance to perform in Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte.” She was admittedly a little nervous to perform in Italian in front of the locals. But as she did at her grandfather’s funeral, she looked straight ahead, steadied her voice and performed like a professional.
When she came back from Italy, Cecelia decided to move off-campus and stay with her grandmother for her last year of college.
Her bedroom is her grandfather’s old music studio.
“At first I felt a little guilty changing the room around, but then I started to feel more connected to him. I felt supported—as if spiritually he’s there with me. And I can’t help but think he’s happy that I’m following in his footsteps and following my dreams.”