#WHYoming: Mikayla Peterson

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Welcome to our series, #WHYoming, brought to you in partnership by Kaumo Law.

We are highlighting people from around our communities and asking them a few questions. We want to learn a little about them and see why they chose this great state to raise their families, start their businesses, or simply to ask — Why Wyoming?

This week, I had a chance to talk with Mikayla Peterson, a Rock Springs native, and current University of Wyoming student. Mikayla is a senior at the University of Wyoming, and is majoring in music education.

Mikayla is a lover of the saxophone, hiking, BMX, the 80s, John Travolta, and of course, Wyoming. She is grateful for her upbringing in Rock Springs, and she appreciates this community for their kindness and support throughout her life.

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Mikayla, what instrument do you play, and what do you enjoy about it?

I primarily play the alto saxophone, but I also frequently play the tenor and soprano saxophone. I like the saxophone because it is such a diverse instrument. There are a lot of different genres of music that you can play.

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How did you get into music, and what does music mean to you?

I never actually had any interest in being involved in band when I was younger. When I was in fourth grade, my brother let me try his saxophone. I could barely get a sound out and was frustrated within five minutes.

However, when it came time to sign up in sixth grade, I decided I would give it a try. My sixth- grade band teacher, Tammy Austin, encouraged me to do the local Stars of Tomorrow Competition. I played and danced to the Pink Panther from memory.

This was the first experience that made me realize that music and performing would be an important part of my life. Since then, music has taken me many places around the country and I have met so many important people in my life because of it.

Mikayla performing in a masterclass for the professor at the Paris Conservatory of France, Claude Delangle. Jinkun Jiang is playing the piano. The piece they played is called Concerto by Henri Tomasi. Photo by Jennifer Turpen

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What do you enjoy about studying music education at the University of Wyoming?

I like that the professors at the University of Wyoming care about all of their students individually and that they also want to see everyone succeed. Because of my professors continued support, I have had so many opportunities at this school that I may not have had elsewhere.

I recently just performed in a masterclass for the professor at the Paris Conservatory of France, Claude Delangle. He is arguably one of the best classical saxophonists in the world right now! I am grateful for all of the wonderful opportunities I have had at UW.

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What do you hope to do as a career when you finish up your education?

When I am finished at the University of Wyoming, I hope to pursue a master’s degree in saxophone performance. I eventually want to get my doctorate and teach the saxophone wherever life takes me.

Mikayla performing in a masterclass for the professor at the Paris Conservatory of France, Claude Delangle. Photo by Jennifer Turpen.

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What did you enjoy about growing up in Rock Springs?

I liked, and still admire, how nice people are there. I have noticed that people in Rock Springs are very supportive of each other, and that’s something you don’t always find everywhere else. People smile and wave at strangers and the entire town is very giving during the entire year.

Since Rock Springs is a small community, there was only one high school. This meant all of the activities and students at the high school support one another and I believe that this makes for a stronger community all around.

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What is something unique about you?

I used to race BMX! I raced for around 10 years and stopped once I went to college.

Mikayla with her brother, Michael and sister, Grace at the BMX track.

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What are some of your hobbies?

I love the saxophone and music! But when I am not at school studying music, I like to go hiking and take pictures. I am an amateur photographer who is still in the learning process. One of my favorite places to go hiking and take pictures is in Grand Teton National Park.

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What do you appreciate most about our community?

I really like how supportive and nice people are. My family’s friends are always checking up on me now that I am in Laramie. It seems like everyone is always willing to do everything that they can to help me succeed.

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If you could give one brief piece of advice, what would it be?

If I could give one piece of advice, it would be to try new things and keep an open mind. It is so important to get out and see what the rest of the world has to offer.

Mikayla hiking in the Tetons.

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Where is your favorite place to hang out in Sweetwater County?

The Flaming Gorge. My family and I have gone there almost every summer since I was little. It is beautiful and it is always nice to just go there and spend a day on the beach or go boating.

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Would you rather walk, ride a bike, take a horse, or drive a car?

It depends on where I am going and how cold it is outside! I like to bike with my family during the summer but driving is good enough for me in the winter.

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What would you sing at karaoke night?

“Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds. For some reason, this has just always been my favorite song. I love the 80s! I drive my family crazy by playing it on repeat when I’m home!

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How would your friends describe you?

I wasn’t sure how to answer this question, so I actually asked one of my friends. She said, “You’re a genuine human and beautiful white chocolate mocha lover with a shot of badass.”

Mikayla hiking in the Tetons.

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What is one of your proudest accomplishments?

I recently just made it into the final round of the Dorothy Jacoby Concerto Competition at UW. I will perform as a soloist with the University of Wyoming Symphony Orchestra on March 7, 2019.

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Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life?

Definitely Olivia Newton-John. I have been a Grease fanatic since I was probably 8-years-old. I would have said John Travolta, but, thought that might be kind of strange. I love him!

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Would you like to continue to live in Wyoming after college?

I wouldn’t mind living in Wyoming after college! This state is beautiful and the people are so nice. However, I also wouldn’t mind living somewhere else. Living in Oregon sounds appealing to me, but I am trying to keep an open mind to wherever my musical career takes me.

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Do you have someone you think would be great for our WHYoming interviews? Let us know!