How one Laker found her authentic voice

Jenny Adkins

Some students go through college with a clear direction of their future while others wade through it confused. Graduate student Lucy Finkel has been on both sides of that fence throughout her career, but has now decided to combine passion, a love for the healing arts and over 20 years of musical experience into a degree in speech pathology.

After studying and receiving a bachelor’s degree in music at Grand Valley in 2005, Finkel moved on to earn her master’s degree at the New England Conservatory of Music. Her career then took her to New York, where she had the opportunity realize her childhood dream and perform professionally.

“My favorite moment as professional musician was singing the role of Maria in West Side Story at the Ashlawn Opera Festival,” Finkel said. “I was the understudy for the role and due to unforeseen circumstances was called, last minute, to step into the role. As scary as this was, I rose to the challenge and had one of the most thrilling opportunities of my musical lifetime.”

Finkel said that she couldn’t imagine a life without music, being surrounded with song from an early age through her mother’s job as an elementary school music teacher. Going into college, Finkel said the main decision to pursue music was being unable to see herself being happy doing anything else.

“I always wanted to be a performer,” Finkel said. “I loved the freedom of diving into a character and connecting to an audience through the words and music of incredible composers and lyricists.”

Despite exhilarating musical opportunities in New York, Finkel said her childhood desire to perform was shadowed by the challenges of being a “starving artist.”

“I spent far more time and energy auditioning, taking lessons and working odd jobs to make ends meet,” Finkel said. “I was not contributing to the world in the way I knew I needed to, and this started to weigh extremely heavy on my mind, body and spirit. Having spent over 20 years with this single point of focus, I was pretty lost. I moved home to Michigan and went back to square one.”

Once she was home again, Finkel found a yoga practice and began a career teaching yoga, eventually moving to massage therapy and the healing arts. Finkel said this inspired her to explore speech pathology, an area of the healing arts that she could combine with her musical background. 

With her love of music still vibrant, Finkel returned to GVSU to pursue her master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology. With her career shift currently in progress, Finkel said that she is proud to be able to create a new career for herself based on her lifelong passions. 

“I think that what has been the most rewarding part of this process is figuring out that there is not just one path for each of us,” Finkel said. “We all have the capacity to restart, to find joy in the unexpected and use overcoming our own personal challenges to help guide others through theirs.”

Finkel said that returning to a career that was all about voice was satisfyingly full-circle. While she may spend less time on stage performing now, voice will always be in the spotlight for her. 

“For me, music helped me find my voice because through singing, I found my most authentic voice,” Finkel said. “I think that process of reconnecting (those I work with) to speech or voice is very much the same, although this ability to communicate may not have any connection to music.”