For the love of cello

ABOVE, LAURA DEMING stands in front of the Thrasher Opera House doors, where she hosts some events as interim director of the Green Lake Festival of Music. Laura Lyke photo

Festival of Music’s interim director began playing as young child

by Laura Lyke
Green Lake Reporter

More than 50 years ago, the Oshkosh public school district gave all fourth graders an opportunity to learn how to play a string instrument.

One young girl, Laura Jean Deming, picked up a cello, instantly got hooked and has gone on to make an impressive career of it.

“My aunt played the cello, and early on I played her instrument, which I believe really made a difference to me,” Deming said. “Everyone in my family played a musical instrument. My parents and my grandparents encouraged it.”

Deming, interim director of the Green Lake Festival of Music, is a cellist in the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She joined the company in 1976 — the very same week she graduated from Northwestern University with a bachelor of music degree in applied cello performance.

“It was the job that made me fall in love with opera,” she said. “Right away, I got to play in operas with Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Joan Sutherland and conductors like Zubin Mehta. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work with world-class voices and conductors. Opera music has everything: drama, gorgeous music, sets, and costumes. It’s real life and fantasy rolled into one.”

The Lyric Opera of Chicago employs Deming for six months of the year, leaving a window open for her and her colleagues to explore other musical pursuits.

Deming went on to found the Pine Mountain Music Festival in Hancock, Mich.

“I started the Pine Mountain Music Festival in 1991,” she said. “We lived in Iron Mountain Mich., where my husband was a minister, so I was able to combine my music world with the beauty of the Upper Peninsula.”

Deming expanded her music festival involvement last September when she became interim festival director of the Green Lake Festival of Music.

“What I like about a festival is that you get it all,” she said. “The people involved are usually passionate, dedicated and lead interesting lives. Those are the people who keep me excited and energized. And then the music itself is very moving and very inspiring.

“We get introduced to artists who devote their lives to what they do, and to help that happen is a real honor.”

The Green Lake Festival of Music’s chamber camp is featuring three world-class groups of artists this year: the Green Lake Chamber Players, the Jupiter Quartet and the Bergonzi String Quartet.

“Those groups make up the faculty of this excellent chamber camp that is available to international students from the graduate level all the way to 11 years old,” the cellist said. “The director of that program is Tom Rosenberg. He’s also the artistic director of the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, so he brings a real wealth of experience from chamber music.”

This year at the Green Lake Festival of Music, Deming is excited to have an opportunity to dive into her opera world.

“We’re really excited because international opera singer Amanda Majeski and her husband Sam Handley are going to sing for us at our annual gala/benefit,” Deming said. “Amanda had her first paid gig at the Green Lake Festival when she was a senior at Northwestern University and it was clear right from the beginning that she was going to be a superstar.”

That was nine years ago.

A few other Green Lake Festival of Music events this year include a piano recital by the first-place winner at the Hilton Head International Piano Competition, master classes in Ripon College’s Rodman Center for the Arts, the Boston Barn Concert and the Choral Institute cabaret-style solo performances.

“Another new thing we’re doing this year is providing buses from three areas in the Fox Valley,” Deming said. “Buses are traveling from Fond du Lac to Beaver Dam and all points between, so we’re hoping that audience members will take advantage of coming as a group.”

She expresses that the Green Lake Festival of Music is a special opportunity to hear people at the beginning of their career who go on to successful, world-class careers in music.

Deming’s musical career has expended beyond the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Wisconsin music festivals.

She has also played principal cello with Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit, conducted the Northern Michigan University Orchestra and Upper Peninsula Youth Orchestra and conducted the ensembles at Cardinal Stritch University.

At Cardinal Stritch, she was the founding cellist of the Clarus Piano Trio, along with pianist and music department chairman Eun-Joo Kwak and Milwaukee Symphony violinist Timothy Klabunde.

“I guess I would like to say how lucky I feel to have been able to make a living as a musician,” Deming said. “I work with such interesting, talented, wonderful people and I guess you couldn’t ask for more than that.”


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