Are you a Lifelong Alaskan? What part of Alaska did you grow up in?
I was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I moved to the United States when I was 18; I received my BA at Anderson University, my MM at Bowling Green State University and finally my DMA at the University of Michigan. In 2003, I moved to Fairbanks, Alaska when I was hired at UAF as their newest Voice Professor. I have lived here ever since.
At Careline, we want Alaskans to know that we are not only a suicide prevention hotline, that we are a someone-to-talk-to hotline as well. We want Alaskans to reach out to us to talk whenever they need help or someone to talk to. There are many barriers to reaching out, including many internal barriers. What would you say to someone who needs help and someone to talk to but may not like the idea of reaching out to ask for help?
This is a great question and I honestly answer it all the time when mentoring my students. I always say, if you had a headache, you would take some sort of medication for it to go away; if you broke your arm, you would go to the doctor and get a cast put on it; if you can’t see, you go to the eye doctor and get contacts or glasses. With all of that said, I believe we sometimes let our pride get in the way and don’t give our emotions and mental health the respect it deserves, I sure don’t when I know I should. Love for our heart, soul and mind is very important and sometimes speaking to someone who is qualified will do nothing but help.
Love for our heart, soul and mind is very important and sometimes speaking to someone who is qualified will do nothing but help.J. Celaire
Alaska can be a challenging place to live. What are some things you do to cope and thrive in our unique Alaskan environment?
I try to stay as busy as possible. I’m not really an outdoorsy person. However I love to walk; I stay pretty consistent with my walking. I love my job and I love my students at UAF. Before COVID, I would try to leave as much as I could to go and visit my family in Canada. Being a performer, I have always had many chances to leave the country and visit many different states and countries throughout my career. Now that my daughter is in school, the travelling has slowed down and I have been pretty invested in her and her extra-curricular activities.
During a time of great uncertainty and turmoil and transition, what gives you hope right now? And what makes you proud?
Music and family give me hope. I have learned different ways to make music grow. I am a HUGE arts advocate. I believe in the arts and how it helps free our mind and allows an outlet for stress and anxiety. The Arts is medicine for the soul. During this pandemic, I have watched how the arts has been stripped from our lives and community and it absolutely breaks my heart. With all of that said, my undergraduate voice studio has been working above and beyond to bring music, virtually, to senior citizen homes (within the state and all over the US). There are so many projects that we have going as we approach Black History Month, we have partnered with Anne Wien Elementary School, Scholastic and UAF Music to put together a virtual rendition of the black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. You will be able to view the video very soon on the Department of Music Facebook Page and the Department of Music YouTube channel! We are so excited and I couldn’t be more proud of the music students and collaborators.
I believe in the arts and how it helps free our mind and allows an outlet for stress and anxiety. The Arts is medicine for the soul.J. Celaire
During difficult times, is there a mantra or some sort of touchstone that you return to? Something that gives you strength or offers perspective during challenging times?
Watching my students sing and perform. Knowing that their abilities not only come from their hard work but my tutelage really encourages and inspires me. My husband is also a ROCK! He is the most patient man I have ever met and I learn so much from his stillness and calm spirit. That is a mantra in itself. This may sound a little cheesy, but spending time with positive people is very refreshing to me. I LOVE to hear people laugh and see them smile!
Many of us have experienced trauma in our lives. The path to healing looks different and follows a different timeline for every one. Would you feel comfortable sharing a story of healing or recovery from your own life?
My biggest trauma was losing my dad; that was the hardest thing I have had to deal with. You see, my dad was my rock, my superman, the first man I ever fell in love with. My father died of brain cancer and died in 2011. Two weeks after he died, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, Julianna. It’s like we lost a life and gained one with my daughter. Julianna is very special to us in the Celaire family; she was key in helping us heal and mourn the loss of my dad. I will NEVER forget my dad and I cherish all of the memories that he created and shared with me. He is definitely my inspiration as I parent my daughter WITH him in our lives. Julianna never met him, however, she knows exactly who he is and we talk about him as if he was still alive. The thing that hurts the most is my dad not being able to witness all of my daughter’s successes and milestones. Oh, how I wish he were here to see her grow. I think the healing process is different for everybody. What helps soothe my soul and heart is being able to talk about my dad, share stories about him with my daughter and also cry with my daughter when we talk about him. It is healthy and strangely so, I feel much better when I don’t try to hold my emotions in and bury them.
What helps soothe my soul and heart is being able to talk about my dad, share stories about him with my daughter and also cry with my daughter when we talk about himJ. Celaire
Looking back on times of acute stress and crisis in your life, what advice would you give yourself?
I would find a much better outlet. When you are a musician, the reality is, your outlet is your job! Therefore, I would tell myself to take some time out for myself. Whether it being brainless activities of playing a game on your phone, reading a book, going for a walk or even coffee with a friend (although I didn’t start drinking coffee until after grad school – ha!). Taking time for ourselves is always looked at as being wasteful and then a level of guilt comes upon us because we ‘should’ have been doing something else! That’s ridiculous! I need to take more time for myself!
Taking time for ourselves is always looked at as being wasteful and then a level of guilt comes upon us because we ‘should’ have been doing something else! That’s ridiculous! I need to take more time for myself!J. Celaire
Feeling joyful can seem complicated after times of crisis. What are some ways that you have let joy back into your life?
Allowing myself to laugh and feel emotion. When my father died, I didn’t have to be sad all the time. I have so many amazing memories of my father – why not celebrate them? I spend a lot of time talking to my daughter about her grandfather (whom she never met, since she was born 6 months after he died). That was surprisingly very therapeutic for me. I guess there is a reason why we call it a ‘Celebration of Life’; I’ve heard those words my whole life, but until I experienced it, it really meant nothing to me. But it does now.
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