SMWS Alumni White Paper

SMWS Alumni White Paper

Dear SMWS Community,

It is with great pride that we share with you our first Alumni White Paper, entitled “A Portrait of the Shining Mountain Waldorf High School Graduate”. This article is the result of 18 months of dedicated research by Nita Davanzo, our Alumni Relations Coordinator and proud graduate of our High School. Nita conducted two surveys in addition to countless in-depth interviews with a selection of our 389 High School graduates, spanning 20 years from 1996-2016. Her research identified many distinguishing traits, capacities, and themes of our graduates, creating a profile of our students and shining the light on the power of our education in making a difference in the world. Happy reading and feel free to share this article far and wide!

Jane Zeender
School Director



SMWS Alumni Panel | Thursday, March 16, 7-9pm

What Can You Do With A Waldorf Education? Anything. And Everything.

Please join us for a special evening with some of our treasured Shining Mountain alumni and learn how Waldorf education and their time at SMWS have impacted their life paths and what wonderful things they are doing now in their lives!

Event: SMWS Alumni Panel

When: Thursday, March 16 | 7-9pm

Where: SMWS Festival Hall, 999 Violet Ave, Boulder



Alumni Interview | Gelsey Malferrari (2001)

Interview with Gelsey Malferrari | Class of 2001
~ Interviewed by SMWS alumna & current Alumni Coordinator, Nita DaVanzo

1. From your time of graduation from SMWS in 2001 to now, where have your steps taken you? 

Down some expected and some very unexpected paths. I started my college career at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. After a year of academics I was invited on a 3-month world music tour of the US with a wonderful group of singers called Northern Harmony. We went coast-to-coast singing music, from old American shape note, to music from South Africa and everywhere in between. This semester away from college gave me some perspective on my life and I soon transferred to Warren Wilson College in North Carolina where my passions were sparked and my soul was fed. After graduating in 2006 with a BA in Integrative Studies (the major of choice for those of us that love too many things) I found myself on a plane to Europe where I traveled solo for 4 months, only to return for a few weeks and get on another plane to hitchhike my away down Central and South America with my future husband, Neal Ritter. We had $2000 and a return flight out of Brazil 4 months later. Needless to say we are still telling the many stories of our adventures, but best of all is that that trip was the birthplace of our thriving non-profit organization: Laughing Coyote Project. Our dream was to create a program for youth in our area that would encourage them to connect more closely to the earth through primitive and ancestral skills.

Neal and I are now a family of four. We have a three-year-old son Lutreo, and a four-month-old daughter Fianna. We live about 5 minutes from the house where I grew up, on Nelson Rd and live and work the land around our house trying to grow all our own food (vegetables, grains, and livestock) raise our children, enrich the land, run our programs and live more lightly. 

2. What initially inspired you to begin pursuing your current work as educator of primitive skills and founder / owner of Laughing Coyote Project, a Primitive Skills School?

When Neal and I were traveling, many of our conversations kept coming back to the same themes: our education (what worked and what didn’t); living more lightly on the earth; craving more outdoor time in school; and wanting to understand more deeply the ways of our ancestors. I have always loved art, but buying art supplies was expensive and I kept asking myself: before one could just go into a store and by watercolors and brushes, what did people do? They made their own… but how? So at Warren Wilson I started designing classes for myself that encouraged me to go deeper. I learned to make different colored pigments from the earth all around the College; I learned to make binders (so the pigment would not rub off the paper) from eggs, milks, and glues. At the time I did not realize it, but I was well on my way to teaching myself primitive and ancestral skills. So when Neal and I met and started sharing our passions with each other, we realized that we were both obsessed with learning the skills of our ancestors and teaching and being our own masters. And thus our school was born. Over the past 10 years Laughing Coyote has evolved immensely, so today we work with youth, teens, adults and families. We participate in our landscape, dive deeply into the rhythms of the natural world and follow the living skills left by ancestral peoples. We play games, run and hide. We use tools of steel, antler, wood and stone. We track the wild animals that infuse our surroundings. We seek a lifeway that embraces the future while honoring the past, to serve as stewards for future generations.  We believe that community is grown slowly and organically through simple authentic human interactions. We hunt, forage, garden, compost, build structures, and run barefoot.

3. How has the Laughing Coyote Project developed over the years since its creation, and what are the joys and challenges of this work for you as individual and in the greater context of the world today?

The first day of Laughing Coyote Project started in the Fall of 2007 with five homeschool students. We now enroll about 40 students for our yearlong homeschool programs for both youth and teens, and have about 120 students that move through our vibrant summer camps and an eclectic workshop schedule. To be quite honest, we have been flying by the seat of our pants since day one. Neither of us took any business classes, I took a couple of education classes in college, but that is really the extent of it. We had a vision and we started making it happen. Student by student, day by day, year by year.  Basically we are learning as we go and we would have it no other way. We absolutely LOVE what we do. We live and breathe Laughing Coyote and barely an hour passes in each day that Laughing Coyote is not mentioned. I would say that this is both joy and challenge, as sometime we get lost in this thriving, rolling story. Sometimes it feels like we are working 4 full time jobs: the administrative side, the teaching side, the farming side, and the family side. This is the life we have created for ourselves and it is a full one. The way I answer this question depends on the day you catch me. Today, things are looking up, but tomorrow, the overwhelm might be too much to bear. Bringing two young children into this vision has also been an interesting change, as I am now teaching less and spending more time raising our children. In the last year we have hired a full time instructor to teach alongside Neal and it has been an amazing experience to convey all that we do and how we do it and why we do it. It has helped us think more deeply and gain a better understanding of our constantly evolving vision.

4. Why do you feel the work that you do is essential and vital to the world today? (you may have already answered this in the first question! I am hoping to hear from you how and why you feel what you are teaching is of value and NEED in the world today! I certainly think it is vital learning – but would love to hear in your words why this may be so…)

“The Earth is our Mother, we must take care of her…” The best way to establish a relationship with anything, especially the earth that we live on, is to spend time with it, her. Over the years we have developed programs that facilitate a simple way to connect to the earth. We play games, running along the landscape, sliding down muddy banks, getting jabbed by Russian Olive thorns.  We remember the skills of our ancestors: gathering willow along the pond to weave baskets, learning to start a fire so that we can keep ourselves warm, coal burning a spoon or a bowl. We are out in all weather, the only indoor space we have is a tipi, so the experience of the changing seasons is full on. This is the way Neal and I wish that we could have been educated, and so this is the way that we are trying to educate future generations. We want them to be at ease when they are outside, feel the freedom of being self-sufficient, trust their instincts, rely on their peer group, and find joy in remembering the past. Our world is moving so quickly and more and more time is spent indoors staring at a screen, whether it is a phone screen, computer screen, TV screen, it doesn’t matter. We all need to spend more time doing and less time observing others doing. We offer an antidote to the speed of the current state of the world. We are about living deeply engaged in our surroundings. For example, new students that join us usually learn make a fire within the first couple of weeks that they are out here. We start them in the present, they quickly master the match, then they learn the intricacies of flint and steel, and blowing a tinder bundle into flame; soon after that they learn the excruciatingly difficult skill of friction fire, many of our students spend years working on this. But it never gets old, because it is alive, they are working with living materials that are always changing, and their mood effect the outcome, the weather effects the materials. We are slowing everything down and empowering each person who steps foot on our land to allow themselves to be swept away by the power of nature and ancestral skills. For some that pass through Laughing Coyote, this way of living is interesting and may give them deeper perspective or assist them later it life, but it stops there. For others this opens up a whole new outlook on the world and changes their life forever. As educators both make us deeply happy.

5. You are a mama now! As you raise your children, what are some of your core values that you wish to share with them. 

In our household this is a continuous conversation and it seems to change from day to day as we watch our children grow and change, and as our lives evolve and grow. I would say that currently we are working on very simple core values, which in the future we hope our children and our family will be able to live more elaborately. One of the most important things to both Neal and me that we feel quite strongly about is understanding where our food comes from. This is why at the dinner table our son Lutreo will often ask: “Mamma, are these carrots from our garden? Who gave us these potatoes? Is this bacon from Jamie’s pigs?” It is a continuous discussion about where things came from and what kind of animal it is from. “Is this meat from a steer or a bull?” We would have it no other way. We want our children to be asking these questions, to know the name of each famer, to plant the seeds in the garden, water them, weed them, watch them grow, harvest them and then eat them. Another wonderful quote: “Jake, thank you for this delicious sweet milk.” To us this is the best way to deeply understand the earth and all that she provides for us. We look forward to the day that our farm will provide us with almost everything that we need so that our children can directly be involved in the process. We also believe that children should be outside. So, that is what we do, we spend a lot of time outside with the kids, whether it is taking the goats on walks around the land, doing farm chores, hunting, foraging in the wilderness, splashing in our pond, putzing and working on a project. All weather, hot, cold, windy, wet, no matter what we are out there teaching our children that it is normal and if you are a little uncomfortable it is all going to be OK and we look forward to the days when our children can experience timeless hours of freedom, creativity, and exploration. 

6. How do you think your education at SMWS shaped your current work and lifestyle today?

There is no doubt Shining Mountain influenced my life, as I spent thirteen of my 33 years playing in the playground, walking the pathways, and sitting in each classroom. The art, music, peer cohesiveness, questioning, wonder are all things I continue pursue and deeply appreciate in my adult life. I would say that though I had a bit of a rough ride in high school, the richness of the Waldorf education supported me in staying engaged. So, through questioning and pushing against the only educational system I had experienced I started to forge my own path and wind my way around to where I am today.

7. 20 years ago, did you have any idea that you would be where you are today? If you could, what would you tell your high school self today?

I would probably say: The high school years are some of the most self absorbed years of your life. Make sure to not lose perspective. Do something meaningful for someone or an organization in the greater community, regularly, so that you remember how small you are in the scheme of things, but also how important each helping hand can be. It is impossible to not get caught up in peer pressure and peer group socializing, but make sure it is not all consuming. Balance it out by pursing things that inspire you, so that you don’t completely lose yourself. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you cannot do something, or that something cannot be done. That doesn’t mean close them out. Always listen to what others have to say and weigh all the different opinions, but be sure that you are not disregarding your heart and what you believe is true for you. Last of all, you never know what life is going to throw at you, so practice living each day fully and just make the best decisions that you can, because you can always change course and things usually have a way of working themselves out.



Alumni Interview | Calla Rose Ostrander (2000)

Connecting People to the Planet:
An Interview with Calla Rose Ostrander (2000), Environmental Leader and Climate Change Activist


  1. Since your graduation from SMWS in 2000, down what paths has your heart led you (college, grad school, work, adventure, and more!) (Can you include your current job title and where you work?)
    It is so wonderful to be asked a question, a first question at that, about heart! I find again and again that the heart is the leader. My heart lead me to my work in this world, reconnecting people to our planet with wonder and beauty. But my career path formed when I first understood the concept of economics. In addition to being a product of thirteen years at Shining Mountain Waldorf School, I came of age in the 1990’s Clinton era of a rapidly growing and globalizing free market. Economics was the language of power and in 8th grade at a green living fair on campus I read a book by Paul Hawken and Amory and Hunter Lovins that became my first bridge between my love for the web of life in which we all live to the economic structures of the modern culture which we agree to all live by. The summer after I actually went to Snowmass Colorado, where the Lovin’s non-profit Rocky Mountain Institute is located, and asked if I could intern with that summer. My mom drove me up (thanks mom!) and I took the bus in. Though I was very serious in my inquiry about an application to intern, the lady at the front desk all but rolled her eyes at me. She told me that their interns all had college degrees. I said I’d pull weeds for free, she said the people who did that had masters degrees. Another, kinder, woman with ginger colored curly hair drove me back to town and told me to go to college and come back.I attended the University of Puget Sound with the help of family, friends, many part time jobs and a classical music scholarship. I returned to Rocky Mountain Institute the fall after my graduation with a degree in International Political Economy and the same woman who gave me a ride home became my mentor. At UPS (not the brown box one) I gained a deeper understanding of the social, political and economic structures that surround environmental policy and identified cities as the place where real political action towards climate change was beginning.  I worked with cities as part of my role at RMI and when I was offered a job to help the City of Aspen write its first climate action plan I took it. After three years in Aspen’s global warming office I decided I needed to learn Spanish (and how to surf) and left for Mexico. However, through a series of wonderful circumstances that involved six months of travel gear and my passport being stolen (less wonderful but ultimately important), falling in love, and being recruited by a very persuasive human being, I ended up working for the City and County of San Francisco implementing then Mayor Gavin Newsom’s climate policies and program for the next six years.In 2013, celebrating the completion of San Francisco’s new Climate Strategy (which, in case you are curious, boils down to three numbers and one word: 0, 50, 100, Roots), and in pursuit of solace for a broken heart, I went on a surf trip up California’s northern coast.  On our second to last day at sunset when glare was high on the water, I dove off my board into very shallow water and suffered a moderate traumatic brain injury.  Healing my head and my heart led me to a new way of approaching the world. I am grateful every day for the incredible gifts of a working body and mind and for this amazing capacity in life that we call resilience.I am now an independent strategic advisor to individuals and organizations committed to stabilizing the Earth’s climate and I love my job.
  1. Did you always envision yourself stepping into working with / for the environment? When were you first inspired to take this work on?

    The best answer I have for this question is “yes”. From the first time I began to formulate what I would do in the world, it was always this. When I was young we took a trip to Costa Rica. The rainforest was magic to me. I can still remember seeing the toucans fly, big wide swooping dives. Having only seen this creature in a cage before, it was like seeing freedom and joy and power all together – my heart soared with it. Then we saw the clear cut: the stumps of trees like butchered limbs, the broken skin of the earth, soils washing down the roads. The people we stayed with took in monkeys that no longer had homes, took in neighbors who no longer had homes. My heart broke for all of them, the trees, the animals and the people. I internalized it. Every night before bed from 3rd grade through what must have been 7th grade I prayed that one day I might help save the rainforest. I think I also prayed to marry Macaulay Culkin or Evan Silverman.Thank goodness the universe is wise enough to not answer all the prayers in an exact fashion.
  1. Do you feel that your SMWS education and curriculum supported / inspired / prompted you to dive into the waters you find yourself in today? How so or how not?Yes, absolutely. And there have been challenges, like not knowing how to type quickly or properly cite academic text when I went to college. I still can’t spell and I write in run on sentences. But there is spell check and things like citations can be learned in a semester or two. What takes longer to learn and what I am increasingly grateful for my Waldorf education is three fold: the ability to observe a full system and parts of any system simultaneously, the self authority to think outside the box, and the combined ability and desire to communicate across a wide diversity of people without prejudice who may be inside many different boxes (long years sitting in circles working things out, ropes courses, plays, etc). Perhaps equally as important, Waldorf gifted me with a second family for life in my classmates.


  1. What does a typical day for you look and feel like?I spent nine years working in an office 9am-6pm and commuting to and from. Then, because of my injury I had an opportunity (/was forced) to be off of screens and out of the office for almost a year. In that time I realized I’d lost track of bird song and the way the air smelled. I now try and start each day with enough sleep and a walk outside. I work across the state of California or from my living room in Topanga when I am not traveling. I know the birds in my neighborhood and the people and their dogs and the coyotes too.


  1. Who are the people that inspire you in your work the most?I have been inspired by so many incredible people, Barbara Rose Balock, Amory Lovins, Randy Udall, Silvia Earl, Arnie Ostrander, and the people who’s names who haven’t heard but who make entire cities and water systems run. Two years ago I left my position with San Francisco to join a team of people who started something called The Marin Carbon Project. This includes folks from the Resource Conservation Districts (best kept secret in conservation) co-founder John Wick and his wife Peggy Rathmann, Dr Jeffery Creek of the Carbon Cycle Institute, Dr. Whendee Silver of UC Berkeley, Rebecca Burgess of Fibershed, Dr. Nuna Teal of The Jena & Michael King Foundation, and my friends at 11th Hour, The Berry Good Found Foundation and Kiss the Ground. These people are in the process of starting the second agricultural revolution and healing our relationship to the planet in the process. It is my joy, honor and daily inspiration to work with them all.


  1. How do you get people who may be uninterested in supporting the environment to listen, change their views, and / or become conscious about their possible harmful actions?I was given the amazing fortune of being able to ask this question of His Holiness the Dali Lama. He answered saying he believed most human beings are innately good and want to do the right thing. And that all change begins with you: your body, your home, your neighborhood, your community. His answer was of course longer and dazzlingly beautiful, completely circular, and left me high for days. But that is essentially what I took away from it, and that is always where I start with anyone I am speaking to about my work. I start by trusting them. Then taking time to understand where they come from, what they care about and what they do every day. This allows me to understand what they value and what their goals are. Once I know that I share with them my values and goals and we can see what we have in common, then we have a place to begin.I’ve also found that having the best data and telling good stories is far more powerful than trying to raise someone’s consciousness by pointing out what they are doing is wrong or using fear or shame. The environmental movement has too long relied on this kind of messaging and people are tired from it. Fear and shame may work on an immediate basis, but people are burnt out by it and it requires a lot of intense energy to keep up (Fox News). In the long run it just makes people angry (current presidential election). Inspiring love, or teaching someone something new is much more powerful. Those seeds stay with people and bloom into solutions you could have never come up with on your own.
  1. Do you see / feel a difference in working with older vs. younger generations?I once worked through the same problem of how to best manage restroom paper towel waste with a group of Waldorf 6th grade girls and with the city council. It took the Waldorf 6th graders two hours, while it took me three months with the a city council! Young people’s minds are more open, and so are their emotional bodies. They don’t have as many experiences that would evoke fear or political loyalty or ego that adults often do and that allows them to take risks by committing to an idea, following it through and then leaving it quickly when it fails, then repeating this until they find the answer that works. That being said, I believe it is essential that the adults stop placing the burden of action upon the younger generation and take responsibility for what is in front of us now.


  1. If you could change the world for the better today, what would you do?Teach people how to engage consciously with their fear of death and install composting everywhere.


  1. For young adults coming into the world and searching for inspiration, for meaning for ways to help, what guidance and advice might you give them?Follow your heart, it is the leader. Use your mind to figure out how to get there. Learn to listen to your gut, it knows when and what decision to make. Time is yours.


  1. Is there literature or periodicals that you feel all young adults and adults should be reading in order to stay informed about environmental change?National Geographic and Scientific American are great for learning how natural systems work and falling in wonder with the beauty of the world. I subscribe to the journals Science and Nature Climate Change. Online, NASA and BBC have great resources. Grist is great and easily digestible. I also have a Google search that delivers articles related to topics I want to follow. I don’t read them, but I open the emails to scan headlines, it helps me keep tabs on the conversations in the media.
  1. What is your favorite quote? OR what is one of your favorite memories from SMWS?…the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. -Goethe





Alumni Interview | Devon Wyckoff (2012)

devonwyckoff1. You graduated in 2012, can you fill us in on what adventures you have been on since that time?
After graduating I went straight to college, attending CU Boulder as a film major. I stayed at CU for two years before transferring to a drama school here in New York City. I finished up at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting last September. Straight out of drama school I made my Off-Broadway debut in an original show called Dead End. Following the close of that show I went to Chicago for a Bollywood Dance show. In the middle of a performance, when I was giving the people of Chi-Town just the most and extra, I decided to not just toe touch, but toe touch FOR MY LIFE! Well I ended up hurting my sciatic nerve in the process. I flew back to NYC the next day and had to take a break from auditioning and performing. This city is not kind to one’s wallet and so I needed to find another way of paying rent. I hate clichés and therefore I just could not bring myself to be waitress/unemployed actor, so I searched for a job that would still keep me close to the theatre. I had previous experience as set-costumer (someone who dresses actors on film sets) and had worked at the Denver Center as a dresser for the Broadway touring companies, so I decided to drop off my resume at every stage door between 42nd St and 54th st (that’s Broadway for you country folk), and a day later Broadway called! I started dressing at Aladdin as a swing dresser, which means I learn every dresser track at the show (a track is the dresser’s trajectory through the show, covering everything from costume presets, the details quick changes to the back stage choreography and costume care). I have 15 tracks in my head that I can be called to cover at any time. I also work at another Broadway show, She Loves Me, where I am responsible for 9 tracks. Between the two shows I work 8 shows a week, our only day off is Monday. I have recently started auditioning again. I will be starring in an Independent Feature this fall and will be doing a NetFlix series later in the year (but I can’t say which one…yet!).
2. What inspired you to pursue a career in the performing arts? (OR – What is about acting that calls you to pursue it?) And when did you know that you wanted to be an actor?
I always used to say the worst advice you could give me is: “Devon you’ll be fine… just be yourself!” I would always be left thinking “WHICH SELF?” The human psychology and emotional spectrum is so enormously complex and vast that we are capable of inhabiting so many different “selves.” Society, however has a norm and a (albeit varying) social, moral and ethical standard to which we tend to conform, therefore we bury our inner psychopath or monstrous rage. We tend to project our developed “default setting” yet rarely get a self place to explore our deeper darker sides or perhaps the common emotions we so often stigmatize. On stage you are applauded for inhabiting that “self” that society would isolate and reject. I enjoy the safety the stage provides so that I can experience the the human condition in its many fascinating and intricate layers.

3. Can you describe your process of work from the moment you take a character on, to that first moment in front of an audience when you “are” that other person?
First I will read the script in it’s entirety so that I understand the story. Then I ask myself “what does my character want, what is my motivation in each scene and how do my characters actions help or deter me from my over-arching goal.” I’ll do a bit of character research. The more specific and thorough I am in my research and character preparation the more freedom I have when performing. Knowing that my character is from New York is not good enough. Is she from Queens? Brooklyn? Rochester? As that will affect my accent. Was she born and raised there? What kind of family was she born into, what kind of education does she have? All these details will inform and dictate my character choices.
Next I will do what is called a “beat breakdown.” This is when I assign a transient verb to each line and every single sentence I speak. This helps take the focus off myself (which is what we call indulgent or masturbatory acting… and NO ONE wants to work with that kind of actor) and put it on my scene partner. For example if I am in a heated fight with my boyfriend because he warned me “if you fall down that hill and break your crown one more time, I’m not coming after you, Jill….I swear….” and I respond “Jack, please calm down. I am not going to tumble down the hill. Here look, I brought you a pale of water.” I would break those sentences up and assign an action, i.e. “to pacify,” to the first sentence, “to reassure” to the second and “mollify” for the third. When I speak the first sentence I have the goal of pacifying Jack. This gives my choices specificity and direction… generality is the death of an actor and a scene.
Once I am on stage and at performance level, however, all of this should be so within me that I don’t think about it. The audience doesn’t want to see your technique, they want to see a fully developed character. They paid to be a voye​u​r, to be privy to your private moment on that stage while you grapple with the human condition and the nature of this fickle thing called life.

4. Horses have always been a huge part of your life as well. Have you continued to find connection into that world while living in NYC? And, how has the transition to life in NYC been for you?
Yes, horses were a huge part of my life. One could even go as far as saying “horses were my life.” I started riding when I was three and started competing when I was eight. Every summer from 2011 to 2014, I qualified and attended the North American Junior Olympics. I trained year round for the summer show seasons. I was often at the barn before and after school. I knew from a very early age however, that I did not want to be a career equestrian. It came to a point where I was turning down roles because of traveling and showing with my horse, and I realized I needed to shift my priorities and focus on my career of choice, and so I stepped away from the horse world. That was an incredibly painful time plagued with self doubt and I, in essence, recreated how I identified myself.
I haven’t been on a horse in nearly two years, which is shocking for me to think about, seeing I rarely went a day without riding before.
The transition to the city was incredibly difficult. There was definitely a bit of culture shock in going from riding a horse to a subway every day. I also had to work incredibly hard to set my ego aside and go from having international success and momentum in one field to be at the very bottom of another field. I have had to learn how to find happiness in places other than my career or accomplishments, because you honestly have no control over a career in the entertainment industry. If I rely entirely on the joy being on stage brings me I enter into dangerous territory, because there can be very dry periods where I may not step foot on a stage for months at a time. I have made a incredible group of friends and support system through the Broadway community and at the moment my main focus is to learn how to live and experience life, because you cannot be a good actor without being an experienced human first.
5. Have you met any other Waldorf alumni in your years since SMWS? If so, did you feel a kinship? 
Absolutely, and funny enough they have all been in the entertainment industry. In 2012 when I did my senior placement in NYC I stayed with an entertainment lawyer who had kids in the Brooklyn Waldorf School. She has become an incredible and invaluable mentor to me over the years.
6. Describe those people (be they actors, scientists, lawyers or other) who inspire you.
Oh man, cue the waterworks as I think about the hundreds of people who have inspired and supported me over the years. At the moment I am inspired daily by the people I work with in the theatre. These are people I have admired from afar for years, these are ensemble members who perform FULL OUT every night, eight shows a week with a passion and energy that is tangible from the back of the house. These people are Tony and Oscar winners who give their time, advice and support graciously. These people are kind, these people show a loyalty and compassion I assumed I would not find in this industry. These people are my friends and I am humbled to call them such….but mostly these people inspire me to keep going in an industry that will give you 100 “no’s” for every one “yes.”
7. What are some of your fondest memories from SMWS; what were some of your greatest challenges?
Performing…I mean come on… A production I didn’t have to audition for? I had no idea how good I had it! The memories from the stage at SMWS are some of my happiest and that is something I pull from when this city and industry start become too much and the joy of acting fades.
Greatest struggle: math. It’s been 1,467 days since I graduated, and I have not used Algebra once. Just saying… I’m looking at you, Mr. York.
8.What quote plays itself in your head these days as inspiration? (could be a song lyric too)
“You are enough, you are so enough, it’s unbelievable how enough you are.” – Sierra Boggess


Alumni Interview with Annie Moger (2001)| by Nita Davanzo

  1. Since your years at Shining Mountain, can you give us an overview of what adventures have taken place (school, travel, work, marriage, where you are living now, more!)?

After graduating from Shining Mountain I started working towards a music degree at CU. Halfway through I auditioned, on a whim, for the Duquesne University Tamburitzans and was accepted, so I transferred to Pittsburgh – which was good since I met my future husband on day two. I toured with the Tamburitzans for two years while finishing my degree, and stayed at Duquesne for a graduate degree, also in music. After that I kept performing (primarily Argentine tango), got into arts management, and eventually became the executive director of Chamber Music Pittsburgh for a couple years. My husband and I got married in Bulgaria (my husband’s home country) and we spend time there each year. We now have a wonderful two-year-old daughter and I’m currently staying at home caring for her.

  1. As a Waldorf student, you had access to and experience in all the arts along with the sciences. What was it about music that called you to pursue it?

I wish I knew! I don’t remember how I got the idea to play the violin – it was just always something I knew I desperately wanted and had to do. When it came time for college, I knew that if I went into a different field I wouldn’t realistically keep up with violin and it was a part of my life I didn’t want to end yet. As for music in general, I think it’s always been a way for me to experience and process emotions, to feel connected to the greater network of human experience, and to understand the world and my place in it. I think that in music one can find that which is common to all people blended beautifully with that which makes us all unique, and that, to me, is very attractive.

  1. Building on the question above, what today inspires you to play, collaborate and perform?

On the surface, I just love doing it. I love playing with people, connecting with them through the art, glimpsing into different cultures and musical traditions, and creating something beautiful and greater than myself. It’s a way I can share myself with the world. On a deeper level, though, I think that music is an incredibly powerful agent of healing, understanding, and connection which are all things that I think the world at large needs right now. I think music puts us in touch with the best of who we are and puts our individual worlds into perspective with the global human experience, which is very liberating. Really it’s what all the arts do, I just happen to relate to music the best and I’m incredibly grateful for being able to be a part of it.

  1. How was it to come out of a school and community that supported you artistically and creatively and step into the often highly competitive professional world of classical music? (and on a side note – I am not sure if you are playing only classical or more / other as well so I may rephrase the question depending on your answer) 

It was hard, honestly. Waldorf education is fantastic in that, as you mentioned, it instills a love of many different subjects, so it’s always been hard for me to dedicate myself fully to just one area. Although I learned classical music while growing up, I also chose to focus on traditional Scandinavian music and other extracurricular activities rather than immersing exclusively into the classical world with youth orchestras, summer music camps etc. The majority of students who go into music school, however, have been focusing primarily if not only on classical music for years. So on the one hand, there was definitely a feeling of being behind in certain areas and of suddenly being a very small fish in a very large ocean. But on the other hand, strictly classical musicians often struggle with being able to play anything else, any other genre, anything that isn’t written out…and that’s where I found I ultimately had a strength. In the end, I’m happy I did things the way I did. I love classical music, but not exclusively, and I think the path I took led me to a musical life that is much more fulfilling than a purely classical one would have. 

  1. What sustains you and gives you energy in your daily life? Why?

Right now I’m finding it really exciting introducing my daughter to new things in the world, new games, new experiences, new skills, and watching her learn and thrive. It’s nice revisiting all the things I love to do, remembering ones I have forgotten over the years, and sharing them all with her. That and the thought of how much there is that I still want to do. There’s a lot more music in me but I also want to write books, learn languages, go hang gliding, see a hundred different places…and I feel that there’s a lot more I can do with whatever knowledge and skills I’ve developed to give back, help others, and make the world a better place. There’s so much life to experience and each day is a chance to absorb a little more and give a little more.

  1. Can you describe a few cherished memories from your SMWS years?

There are so many good memories – class plays, class trips, the Halloween Journey, the spiral garden, the shepherds’ play, so many amazing stories and main lessons, senior vision fast, the pentathlon, Michaelmas…too many to count.

  1. If you were to set your life thus far to a soundtrack, what music (composers, songs, artists) might it consist of?

Wow, I don’t think I could even begin to say. It would be really varied. Everything from Beethoven to the Beatles, Irish jigs, tangos, Scandinavian fiddle, movie soundtracks…

  1. If you were to give advice to a young musician today, what might you tell them?

First, that practicing and having good technical skills is only half the battle. If you want to “make it” as a musician then you need to be an entrepreneur ready to make good business decisions, marketing plans, networking and all the rest. So you have to make a point of gaining all that knowledge. And secondly, that in today’s world there are a million different ways to be a musician and it’s important to think about the one that will work for you and your desired lifestyle so you can keep your passion alive. Growing up I always thought it was my dream to be an orchestral musician, but when I got to college I found out that orchestral parts aren’t my favorite to play and the lifestyle would demand that I work many evenings and weekends – not great for the kind of family life I wanted. For me it worked out better having a day job and being able to focus on only doing the music projects I was passionate about rather than constantly needing to put them aside for gigs that would make ends meet. It’s not simple or easy, but with the world more connected now than it ever has been before, I think everyone can find a way to have a fulfilling musical life within a lifestyle that makes them happy.