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Making it to the big stage

Heidi Joosten, a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire music composition alumna, had always dreamed of her music being performed on the big stage. Little did she know her dream would become a reality just months after graduating from UW-Eau Claire.

Joosten, originally from Cameron, was among the female composers selected to have their original musical theater compositions featured at "The Music Box: An Evening of Lady Composers," an event of the summer 2014 New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF).

The NYMF is the largest annual musical theatre festival in the United States, presenting productions, concerts, readings and special events each summer. The festival provides or subsidizes all the key components needed to put on a show, from theaters, performers and technical equipment to marketing, industry and audience outreach. For new musical theater writers, NYMF offers an all-too-rare chance to fully realize their shows in three dimensions and with top-flight collaborators — an experience that is essential for the development of exciting new work. More than 90 NYMF shows have gone on to productions on and off Broadway, and festival alumni have received a wide array of awards including the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

Joosten, who received her UW-Eau Claire degree in December 2013, entered a few of her pieces into the competition, which encourages women who are creating new and innovative works for musical theater to submit original songs for the showcase. Her composition "(Marry Me) Anywhere but Here" was chosen as one of the winning pieces to be staged by Broadway performers.

"While I hadn't written a full-length musical yet, I had been writing some songs in a musical theater style and figured that since there was no entry fee, I had nothing to lose by submitting," Joosten said. "I sent my entry in at the beginning of June, and I was notified at the beginning of July that a piece of mine had been selected. Within three weeks, my family and I were on a plane out to New York City to hear the performance."

Joosten transferred to UW-Eau Claire as a junior after spending two years at UW-River Falls. She originally intended to start her composing career after earning her master's degree in composition from a larger university.

"Instead, my two and a half years of studying with incredible professors led to a piece of mine being selected to be performed in New York just months after I graduated," Joosten said. "I couldn't be more grateful for the training, confidence, and networking I gained through my education at UW-Eau Claire, and I look forward to wearing blue and gold proud throughout the rest of my professional career."

During her time at UW-Eau Claire, Joosten performed in a wide variety of ensembles as a vocalist, pianist and harpist. She said that these experiences have given her an invaluable respect and desire for collaboration. While she acknowledges the support of all of her professors, she was particularly influenced by the mentorship of faculty and staff members Paula Smith, Dr. Gary Don, Dr. Chia-Yu Hsu, and Dr. Ethan Wickman, who now teaches at another university.

"These four especially shaped me to be the composer and human I am today, and I am forever grateful for all that they have done for me," Joosten said.

Hsu, an assistant professor of music, said that Joosten's determination to succeed has led her to her many accomplishments.

"Her passion for music shows through her compositions," Hsu said. "This incredible opportunity opens up a whole new chapter for her and helps her get firsthand experience in the world of theater she's been so fond of."

Joosten said the most important thing she learned while at UW-Eau Claire was not related to her curriculum, but to how she interacts with those around her.

"Every single person you come across has great value and something significant to teach you," Joosten said. "Therefore, be grateful for everything, listen carefully and always give of yourself even when you feel like you have nothing left to give. People will return the favor when you very least expect it."

Joosten's plans for the future include graduating from Roosevelt University's Chicago College of Performing Arts in 2016 with a master's degree in music composition. From there, she would like to either work in the musical theater industry as both a pianist and composer or to earn her doctorate in composition and become a professor.

For more information on Joosten and her current projects and to listen to her piece "(Marry Me) Anywhere but Here," visit her website,