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Alicia Mielke is one of those people who seems to do it all and have it all together at the same time.
She's a farm girl originally from Harrington, Wash., who continues to lend a hand to her parents by making a cross-country trek each year to help them harvest the wheat crop on their 5,000-acre farm.
Cross-country trek isn't an exaggeration. The 26-year-old works full-time in Boston, Mass., at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where she manages its various concert series.
To top it off, she's a professional, classically trained flutist who has worked with world-class instructors all across the U.S.
Did we mention she does it all?
Proof in the Pudding. Mielke has experienced a lot of success since she left home as a high school senior to attend a boarding school for the arts in Interlochen, Mich. She had help getting to that point, and she gives credit where she thinks it's due.
"What gave me the ability to do music and still be a farmer? I've been able to do that because of my parents," she says.
Mielke explains her parents' encouragement to pursue her musical passion remained constant from childhood lessons through professional training as a young adult. She received a bachelor's of music from the University of Texas and a master's in music from the New England Conservatory.
She continues to help on the family farm today as a small thank you for her parents' sacrifices. But she'll quickly tell you that not helping out around the farm as a teenager living at home was never an option for Mielke and her older sister, Veronica.
"I knew girls in my high school who weren't allowed to help on the farm because they were girls," Mielke recalls. "It wasn't an option for us."
Teaching their daughters lessons in hard work made more sense than hiring employees to Mielke's parents. They drove grain carts and tractors in the field, and hauled grain to the elevator. During high school, the two even joined their local volunteer firefighter team in Harrington.
FOCUSED ON GOALS
Mielke's musical accomplishments to date are remarkable, and her music is not a hobby. She keeps connected to Boston's music scene as the concert manager at the city's Gardner Museum. Booking talent also helps her connect with musicians across the country.
Mielke has performed several concerts in Boston and plans to start her own series to work toward her goal of performing regularly as a featured flutist. But the East Coast city life lacks some of the flavor of home for this Pacific Northwesterner. While Mielke shares an apartment with her older sister, and their parents have visited several times, nothing compares to going back to the farm. She vacates Boston for one month each year to help her parents bring in the wheat harvest. However, that doesn't mean she leaves her museum work behind. Mielke's dad purchased a cell-phone signal booster, which can be mounted to the tractor or combine cab, to make multitasking easier. She can sit in the tractor or combine cab, and take phone calls or respond to emails between trips across the field.
Mielke's boss at the Gardner Museum is so enthusiastic about her commitment to her family's farm that he proposed simply closing the concerts department for the month needed to harvest the crop. Mielke laughs recalling his shock when she told him she wanted to keep the department open. Turns out, Harrington, Wash., isn't Timbuktu, despite being on the other side of the continent.
A FAMILY TRADITION