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Nicole Swanson being crowned Miss Minnesota

Nicole Swanson was crowned Miss Minnesota on June 18 at the Ted Mann Concert Hall.

Music is instrumental in Miss Minnesota pageant

Studying viola at the U helped Nicole Swanson become the new Miss Minnesota

By Dana Setterholm

June 28, 2006

Her platform was "Music is Instrumental," and music certainly played a part in Nicole Swanson's victory in the Miss Minnesota pageant on June 18. Swanson, who graduated from the University's School of Music in 2005 with a degree in Viola Performance, played Fritz Kreisler's "Praeludium and Allegro" in the talent portion of the competition, which was the largest judged section.

Swanson began studying viola at the U during her senior year of high school through the Post-Secondary Education Option program (PSEO), and the focus and creativity she developed as a music student became important pageant skills. "Nicole is an incredibly free-spirited person, but she's also an incredibly focused person," says her viola teacher, Korey Konkol. "It's that combination, I think, that makes her extraordinary." Free-spirited musicians often play beautifully, Konkol says, but are reluctant to practice. Swanson, on the other hand, does both. "She's a very, very talented girl," says Konkol.

After graduating from the U, Swanson set her mind to competing in the Miss America pageant. She had already been accepted to the Juilliard School and the Cleveland Institute of Music, but she deferred in order to hone her elocution skills, physical fitness, and musical performance for the pageant. Swanson says music was a large part of why she chose to compete in the pageant--"I have been a musician since I was three years old, and I make my living now as both a performer and a teacher," she says. "I have witnessed firsthand in my own life the difference that music has made, and I've also seen it in my students." The Miss America pageant system requires each contestant to have a platform--a cause to champion throughout her year-long reign--and Swanson says this attracted her to the pageant: the opportunity "to have an impact on more people than just my immediate students."

Nicole Swanson
The new Miss Minnesota, Nicole Swanson, a 2005 graduate of the School of Music.

Swanson's platform, "Music is Instrumental," is aimed at helping improve music programs at schools around the state, and she will be working with the Minnesota Music Educators Association to make schools and parents aware of the importance of a musical education to a child's overall success in school. "The focus that you have when you start a musical instrument--practicing a certain amount of hours a day--that benefits you in other areas of your schooling and your learning process," says Konkol.

Music will also be a large part of Swanson's future--her possible careers include professional orchestral musician, music teacher at a university, or even dean or director of a conservatory. Those plans will be put on hold as she competes for the title of Miss America in Los Angeles this fall, but music will continue to be instrumental in Swanson's life.