Cello on a stick: Woman with religious hopes wins State Fair talent competition

| September 16, 2016 | 1 Comment
Anne Goedtke hopes to join a Franciscan religious order and will use her winnings from the State Fair talent show to pay down her student loan debt, which is a key part of entering religious life. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Anne Goedtke hopes to join a Franciscan religious order and will use her winnings from the State Fair talent show to pay down her student loan debt, which is a key part of entering religious life. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Anne Goedtke loves the Minnesota State Fair.

This year, the Fair loved her back.

The 22-year-old graduate of the University of Minnesota and member of St. Lawrence Catholic Church and Newman Center decided to combine her love affair with the Fair with her desire for a religious vocation.

On a whim in late July, she entered the Fair’s annual talent competition. She would play her favorite musical piece on the cello, an instrument she has played since age 7.

After advancing to the finals Sept. 4, she took home $10,000 by capturing first place. She played a piece on the cello called “Julie-O” that she had learned five years ago.

She was hoping to win the prize money so that she could reduce the amount of time it would take to pay off $34,000 in student loans. Wiping out the debt would help her achieve her goal of joining a Franciscan order in Stuebenville, Ohio.

Many religious orders, including this one, require those seeking to join to be debt free.

“I’ve been discerning religious life for over a year,” said Goedtke, who earned a degree in music therapy last December and works part-time as a music therapist. “I knew at some point I’d have to think about how I’m going to take care of my student loans. That’s how it started.”

She also liked the idea of entering the talent competition for the first time.

“I had gone to the State Fair talent show for years,” she said. “My whole life, my family has gone and watched it.”

But, there was an obstacle. The only day she was available for an audition was July 31. She submitted her paperwork, hoping that the last day of July would be the day she would be asked to come in.

It was, and she sailed through the audition, which featured 375 applicants. Then, she won in the semifinals a week before the finals, which took place the final Sunday evening of the Fair in the grandstand.

“I felt very calm during the performance,” she said. “I was more nervous for the semifinals, I think, than for the grandstand. I don’t know why. When I got to the grandstand, I had had people texting me and calling all day and saying, ‘Praying for you tonight.’”

One of those people was Mary Beth Hess, the music director at St. Jerome in Maplewood, where Goedtke had worked for a year as the director of religious education. Hess, a musician herself and member of the group Splatter Sisters, came to the finals to watch. She “started saying Hail Marys” and then agreed wholeheartedly with the judges when they announced the winner.

“Her piece . . . was hands-down the best piece of the night,” Hess said. “And, I was so glad the judges realized that.”

Said Goedtke: “I knew I had done probably one of the best [renditions] I’d ever played of the piece after I finished. I knew the notes like the back of my hand, but the one thing I was thinking about for the State Fair show was, ‘I need to be more animated. It has to be more of a performance. I can’t just be having a good time in my own little world. I have to be thinking about what the audience is seeing.’”

This could end up being the last time she performs on a stage. She knows if she joins the order — her timetable if she is accepted is next August — she might have to put the cello aside. And, that’s fine by her.

“I did have a conversation with a couple of the sisters about that. They were like, ‘You know, you won’t be doing music therapy anymore and you won’t be performing or anything like that.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I know that. That’s OK,’” she said. “I will miss practicing for hours to achieve something, or miss the pleasure of being able to be there on stage and the excitement of that, but it just doesn’t compare to” the thought of joining the Franciscan Sisters.

Goedtke says she is “97 percent” certain her calling is to join the order. Winning the talent show caused her hope of being accepted to soar.

“I really felt like in a large way, it was the Lord just saying, ‘Yeah, I’m going to help you accomplish this. You don’t need to worry about your student loans,’” she said. “I’m trying to use all the resources I can. But, at the same time, I really feel like the Lord will just take care of it for me. So, I’m not stressing out about it.”

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  • Jane

    Fantastic!!!!! So happy for Anne and wish her much love and joy becoming a Sister in our Lord’s one true Church! God Bless you always!!