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Somerset teen sings for Assembly Inauguration

Dana Carlson, 17, stands between Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton and Rep. Ann Hraychuck at the Wisconsin State Assembly Inauguration Ceremony on Monday, Jan. 5. Dana, a junior at Somerset High School, sang the Star Spangled Banner upon the recommendation of Hraychuck, whom she had met previously during Blue Ribbon Walk community events. Photo submitted

John Carlson remembers the first time he really heard his daughter sing.

"She was sitting in her car seat, only about 3 years old," Carlson recalled. "She would sing with every song on the radio. But one day, we turned the radio down to hear her, and we realized it sounded like the voice of an angel."

"We were driving in the van and she was singing 'Ceceila' by Simon and Garfunkel," Roberta, her mother, added. "And she hasn't stopped singing since."

Dana Carlson, now 17, sat opposite her dad and mom, with a humble expression on her face. Lightly she began to hum "Ceceila."

* * *

The youngest of six siblings, Dana, a junior at Somerset High School, has been surrounded by music all her life. Her father played guitar, her mother sang, her three sisters sang and played the flute and clarinet, and her brothers played the saxophone and trumpet.

"Music is the passion of my life," Dana attested. "There has always been music in our house, whether playing on the radio, or my mother singing while she cooked or my parents' friends coming over to music jamboree with all their instruments. It was great growing up with that music around me."

Even though she already displayed a natural talent for singing, it was through six years of dedication and training that she has become an accomplished classical singer.

In fact, she just completed an engagement at the Wisconsin State Assembly Inauguration Ceremony on Monday, Jan. 5 where she sang the Star Spangled Banner upon the recommendation of Rep. Ann Hraychuck (D-Balsam Lake).

"It was such an honor to have the 28th Assembly District so beautifully represented at the inauguration ceremony by Dana and her musical talents," Rep. Hraychuck said via press release.

"That was a different kind of nervousness," Dana admitted. "Everyone knew the selection, and they are much more critical than of an aria that no one knows."

Standing before the crowd of more than 600 people, Dana said she knew she had only one chance to make a good impression.

"I was much more focused that day, just getting into the state of mind."

Although this was the largest crowd she had performed in front of to date, she is not a neophyte. She has performed with the Dynamics, Somerset High School's show choir, since its inception. She has had main roles in the SHS theater productions for the last two years. She has also sung for the Wisconsin Lions Governors Ball in Siren. In addition, Dana held a recital for more than 100 people at Bethany Lutheran Church in Siren last June.

For one and one-half hours, she sang German, Italian and English arias, spiritual hymns and selections from Disney.

"As long as you keep hydrated and focused, it's no big deal," Dana said casually.

The recital served to raise funds to allow Dana to attend the Lutheran Summer Music Academy and Festival (LSM) -- a four-week residential music training program for band, orchestra, choir and keyboard students in grades 8 to 12.

Of the more than 1,000 who apply from the U.S. and abroad, only approximately 150 students are accepted based on their audition, application and references. The students receive intense training seven days a week, culminating in a variety of performances at the end of the academy.

"One time on the weekend, we marched in the St. Peter's parade with kazoos," Dana laughed.

Dana has been accepted to participate again this year. She said she may do another recital to raise funds, but has not set a date yet.

Not only is she studying voice, but she is also honing her saxophone skills. She began playing in the fifth grade band and has continued through high school, adding the Wisconsin Regional Honor Band to her growing list of accomplishments. But she admits singing is her first love.

Dana credits her grandmother, a board member of the St. Paul Opera Guild, with getting her interested in opera.

"She would always take one of us kids with her," Dana said. "I wasn't that crazy about it at first, but I came to eventually like it."

Currently Dana is involved with the Minnesota Opera in a year long study of operatic music, called Project Opera. She hopes to continue her education after high school at either Luther College in Decorah, Iowa (where the LSM will take place this year) or the University of Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in Appleton.

Her focus would be on vocal performance in opera and musical theatre, but has a backup plan of studying choral directing or seminary. Her dream job would be to conduct or stage an opera chorus.

"They are the backbone of the show," Dana enthused. "Their main job is to punctuate the main points in a production. They all have to move and interact with each other and they are always at the open (of a show) and stay part of the action. They are the icing on the cake."

Her rationale for not wanting the starring role?

"Stars fade," she said matter-of-factly. "I don't want to be poor on the street."

Dana does admit her only regret in her life thus far is that she doesn't dance. She said she'd love to learn ballroom dancing but doesn't have the time.

Indeed, in addition to being a straight-A student, she is very involved in her church. When she is not practicing or performing or studying, you could find her on her snowmobile or shoe shopping.

"She takes pictures of shoes she likes in the stores," Roberta claimed.

"I have about 30 pairs of shoes," Dana admitted with a smile, "and five on my phone."

Wonder if her ringtone is "Ceceila?"