SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Cook prepares to take center stage

MINOT, N.D. – Kylee Cook just wants to be on the stage.

The music education major isn’t overly concerned about what stage; she wants to delight audiences in any way possible.

“I don’t really want to limit myself in what I can and can’t do or limit myself with a preference of one area or another,” she said. “The dream is performing, no matter what aspect, singing a solo, in an ensemble, in the band, acting — just everything — fills my soul.”

Her love of performing goes back to her childhood in Scobey, Montana.

“I wanted to be a pop star growing up, and that probably hasn’t changed,” she said. “When I was in high school, I started to think more about what am I good at and what do I want to do for the rest of my life. It was always music and performing. Being an actress in musicals or plays, something in live theater because there is so much at stake with each performance, that’s what I most want to see in the future.”

To achieve such lofty goals, Cook felt Minot State was the right decision to set up her future.

“Making a life and a living as a performer is one of the hardest things to do,” Cook said. “Everyone wants to do that, and anyone can, but I decided to get my education and a foundation for me to succeed. I plan on getting my master’s in theatre and believe that will give me a boost and set off my career.

“I think there are pros and cons to being a self-made artist and performer or going through education. I believe there are benefits to doing the education route. You are perfecting your craft, but you are also getting resources and opportunities and networking and broadening your horizons on where you can take your career.”

Her educational experience through Minot State will come full circle as she will begin her professional career teaching music somewhere in or around Minot. Like her stage preference, Cook isn’t limiting herself to one age group as a teacher.

“I think I value teaching and the classroom setting just as much as I value performing,” she said. “My methods classes have been in elementary and secondary education at Perkett Elementary and Ramstad Middle School (in Minot), and both were so exciting. When the kids’ faces light up to music, and you get to be a part of that, it’s a heart-filling moment. I think it is the same feeling as a standing ovation. I really don’t have a preference between the two; I love working with small children and some of the fun things you get to do with them in class, but you get to do more complex pieces, and there is probably a greater appreciation of the music in secondary school.”

Cook is part of a music and performance family and began acting, singing, and performing in an annual variety show in Scobey called “The Dirty Shame Show” as early as first grade. As her talent and confidence grew, so did her roles in the variety show.

“My dad has been in a jazz band basically my entire life. He plays tenor saxophone, which is what I play, so he has been a huge influence,” Cook said. “I started out just doing some sketches and skits, then sang in the women’s ensemble, then some pit stuff, playing with my dad, which was so much fun, and then got to do some solos. I think over the years, I’ve done something like 15 shows for the variety show. Growing up, that was something I really looked forward to and it’s brought my whole family joy.”

While Cook feels right at home on the stage in front of crowds, it didn’t start out that way. She had to overcome overwhelming stage fright early in her career.

“In elementary school, I had to use character voice because I was so terrified to use my own voice,” she said. “One day, I just decided this is something I like doing; why am I not putting my heart and soul into it? Once I started to gain confidence, it allowed me to use it and it just wasn’t that scary anymore.

“I still get a little nervous, but I remember this past year, at ‘The Hunchback of Norte Dame,’ standing behind the curtain before the show, and there was no fear. I was secure in my ability to nail my lines and nail my songs. On stage is a chance to tell a story and be someone else — to get to play pretend — but make an impact on the audience.”

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Published: 05/17/24   

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