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Finding strength through her song

Senior Rosie Sauvageau is nearly finished recording her first CD. She has recorded nine and a half out of 10 songs, all of which are her own compositions for piano and voice, plus a few with a little guitar and synthesizer added in. Sauvageau is currently working on the title track, “Be Around,” which she has already recorded a few times but isn’t quite satisfied with it yet. Her goal is to have the album ready to sell by Feb. 1, and then spend the remainder of her last semester in college playing in as many venues in the Fargo-Moorhead area as she can to promote her new album.

To those Cobbers who have witnessed Sauvageau’s performances at Concordia events like Cabaret, or voted her to the top 10 of last year’s Fargo Star competition, it may not seem that strange that Sauvageau is taking her love for music to the next level. But to those who know her well– and to Sauvageau herself– it’s a leap in a series of unpredictable steps for someone who never thought they would be a singer.

Just a few years ago, Sauvageau had crippling stage fright. Although she’s played the piano since age two and performed in choirs and a worship band in high school, Sauvageau had a phobia of singing solo in front of people. During her senior year at Shanley High School, Sauvageau’s friends pushed her to perform a solo at the end-of-the-year show. Sauvageau reluctantly agreed, thinking that she should try it and it would be a great thing to accomplish her senior year, despite her fear of singing in front others. The first public performance wasn’t easy.

“When I first started soloing that, I couldn’t have anybody look at me. I had to turn all the lights off in the room; I had to lay down,” she said. “It was such an anxiety attack for me, it really was a phobia.”

After graduating high school, Sauvageau decided to major in piano performance at the College of Saint Benedict. To this day, she never gets nervous playing the piano, only singing solo. Sauvageau decided she didn’t care for dissecting and analyzing music and transferred to Concordia, where she is majoring in apparel and design and communication and theater, specializing in event planning.

Senior Kristi Alton, Sauvageau’s roommate and friend for over a decade, fondly recalls the first time she heard Sauvageau sing in their apartment two years ago. Sauvageau made Alton sit in their living room while she sat in the kitchen so they couldn’t see each other, and it took Sauvageau nearly 10 minutes to build up the courage to sing in front of Alton.

“It is pretty funny to look back at that day, and remember how afraid she was,” Alton said. “Knowing her capabilities now, it is unthinkable that she once couldn’t even sing in front of me.”

Sauvageau began composing songs for voice and piano after her sophomore year of college. Initially, Sauvageau thought since she attends Concordia, where there are so many people who sing, someone else could just sing her songs and she could accompany them on piano. Then, she realized that no one could convey the meaning of her songs like she could herself, and decided to give performing a shot.

“I’m writing about my life experience, so I couldn’t really explain that to somebody and really have them understand it,” she said. “So, I just was like ‘Maybe, I could try and do it, and then if it goes terrible, then I would just never do it again.’”

Sauvageau booked a show at Babb’s Coffee House at the end of the summer before her junior year, almost three years after her first public performance in high school. The show went well, and Sauvageau’s music career has escalated ever since.

After performing her songs at several coffee shops and other small venues in the Fargo-Moorhead area, Sauvageau was encouraged to enter last spring’s Fargo Star competition—which she described as “American Idol, Fargo-style”—by her roommates. At first, Sauvageau wasn’t sure since the competition required her to submit a one-minute clip of her singing a cappella for viewers to vote on, which was a little farther out of her comfort zone.

“Throughout this whole singing process and trying out different things with that, I’ve kind of thought of this mantra: the question is always, ‘What’ve you got to lose?’ And if the answer is nothing, then you absolutely have to do it,” Sauvageau said.

She did it, and was voted into the top 10. Sauvageau performed, sans her piano, at the final competition at the Venue at the Hub in front of 400 people. Although she didn’t win the competition, Sauvageau enjoyed the experience immensely and said it was fun to play for that many people after playing in front of the relatively small crowds at coffee shops.

Sauvageau has since performed at this fall’s Cabaret, her biggest crowd to date. Sauvageau said she was really nervous to perform in front of her peers, but considers Cabaret to be one of her most fun performances.

Junior Hanna Stevens, who sings with Sauvageau in Concordia’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble, describes Sauvageau’s style as a blues/pop combination, although her extensive classical piano training is also apparent. Stevens said Sauvageau’s vocal and piano talents together create a musical force.

“Both her instrumental and vocal talents can stand alone, but combined in performances, she really is an artist,” she said. “Rosie connects to her audience by performing original compositions, but even her solos at Vocal Jazz Ensemble concerts speak to the crowd with style. She is really a versatile and unique performer.”

Stevens said that before Sauvageau informed the Vocal Jazz Ensemble of her phobia, she had no idea Sauvageau had ever had a problem singing in front of others.

“She just seemed cool and calm, and music-making seemed effortless for her. I think her story makes her accomplishments that much more encouraging; she got over herself to pursue what she loves, and not very many people have the courage to do that,” Stevens said.

Sauvageau has most recently debuted her musical talent to the pageant world. After two people in one week—Sauvageau’s former cello instructor and Miss North Dakota 2006 Jacqueline Johnson, and Marjorie Thompson, owner of Haute Boutique in downtown Fargo—encouraged her to enter a pageant in the Miss America Organization, Sauvageau thought she should look into it.
Sauvageau was initially skeptical, but after talking to the Miss North Dakota 2009, Tessie Jones, and learning that talent was 35 percent of her score and the potential scholarship money she could earn for her education, she entered the Miss West Fargo pageant. After playing one of her original songs, she ended up with the title. Sauvageau will compete for the title of Miss North Dakota in Williston, N.D., in June.

After Sauvageau’s release party and whirlwind tour of Fargo-Moorhead venues is over and she has walked across the stage in Memorial Auditorium to accept her college diploma, she would like to move to a larger metropolitan area like the Twin Cities to expand her music’s exposure.

“My goal after graduation is to perform…don’t know where, don’t know how,” Sauvageau said, “but I’ll figure that out along the way.”

Sauvageau said that if she doesn’t move somewhere where she can work on her music, she’ll be living an unhappy life because music is so much a part of who she is. For Sauvageau, composing songs is emotionally freeing, and she doesn’t care about breaking any rules she learned as a piano performance major.

“I’m sure that there’s a million parallel fifths on my album; I’m sure there’s a ton of rules that I’m breaking, but I don’t really mind,” she said. “I kind of like that musical ambiguity, that you don’t really know if it’s right or not, and it just makes it more exciting…and I think it should kinda be left that way.”

Alton said Sauvageau writes how she feels and just lets the music express what words alone could never describe, which “is an amazing gift.” Alton said she has high hopes for Sauvageau’s future because she has the talent, potential and personality to go far with her music.

“If anything, this will be her way of telling her story to the world,” Alton said. “She has a lot to tell, and it is definitely worth hearing. “

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