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Gaelynn Lea visits Dickinson during end of first national tour

Violinist Gaelynn Lea performed at Dickinson State University on Tuesday. The artists is on the final week of her first national tour. (Press Photo by Kalsey Stults)1 / 2
Violinist Gaelynn Lea performed at Dickinson State University on Tuesday. The artists is on the final week of her first national tour. (Press Photo by Kalsey Stults) 2 / 2

In September, Gaelynn Lea started the trip to Dickinson from Duluth, Minn., to play her violin and sing during her first national tour. She's performed in 36 states during that time but she made a two-day stop to perform again in the southwest North Dakota town this week.

The events at both Dickinson State University and the Dickinson Public Library were coordinated by DSU's Campus Activity Board and the Multicultural Committee.

"I think people were very interested to see Gaelynn play, and I think it was something unique for the community and hopefully both DSU and the library can bring more performers to the area," said Kevin Anzzolin, DSU professor and member of the Multicultural Committee.

Angeline Schank attended the event at the library on Wednesday and was so eager she was the first person to show up—almost 30 minutes before it even started.

She said she was excited to attend because it's an interesting performance for the area and she loves the sound of violins playing.

The performance didn't disappoint and she gave high praises after it was over.

"I found it very inspiring," she said. "What a beautiful, beautiful person she is and how she has done so much with her life compared to some people that are talented and do very little. I'm just amazed. She has a beautiful voice."

Lea, while not only an accomplished musician, also spends time speaking about disability and her experiences with brittle bone disease.

"I know I wouldn't be doing what I am doing now if I had been born in a different body; there's just no doubt in my mind because of the way everything unfolded. Disability is an integral part of my identity," she said.

The disease,, which she has had since birth, left her mobility impaired, but thanks to a music teacher she learned to play the violin in a creative way. Instead of holding the violin under her chin, she plays it like a cello—which fits her much better.

"It didn't dawn on me until I was an adult that she could have been like 'Well this won't work' and then that would have been it and it wouldn't have been my whole career," she said. "It's just crazy to think how much influence in that moment and that's why I think teachers are so important and having them be positive is important. Telling a kid 'no' it sticks with them and it can direct their whole life."

She also branched out from playing in groups mainly to becoming a solo artist who uses a looping pedal to create layers of music with her playing over melodies she produces on her violin.

"The thing about looping that's different than when I would just play along in bands—it's really timing specific," she said. "So you kind of have to be present and be like 'what am I playing right now' but if you overanalyze it and you're like 'Is this good or bad,' you mess up. I feel like a walking-on-a-tightrope kind of feeling where you're there and you might waver a little but you can't fall off."

Lea submitted a video last year of herself singing and playing the violin to an original song to the Tiny Desk Competition. She went on to beat out over 6,000 submissions to win the contest, which propelled her into starting a national tour. After the tour is completed early next week, she will have visited 37 states in 52 days, along with her husband, Paul.

"We've met so many nice people," she said. "It has been a fun adventure to do it with my husband and to make this like a little adventure together."

For more information about Lea visit her website at