Colleen Otte

Hear Nebraska … and then my sigh of relief

Early last week, I submitted the last of my application materials for my Linked Bachelors-to-Masters program. In the words of The College of Communications, Arts and Sciences, “This linked plan is designed to provide students with specialized knowledge in journalism, building on acquired fundamentals, while progressing through the program efficiently and effectively.” Basically, it was a lot of work. So, my thought when everything was finally submitted was simply, “What. A. Relief.”

Well, kind of. My statements were written, my resume updated, my recommendations submitted. After spending hours toiling over them, it just felt good to put them in someone else’s hands. But, my sigh of relief was soon followed by a slow inhalation as I tried to remind myself that everything will be okay; everything will pan out as it should.

Just a few short months ago, I had no intention of pursuing a master’s. I assumed I would graduate, take a job and call it good. But then one of my professors nudged me that the linked program would be a good opportunity for me, and I must admit, its advantages seemed too good to pass up. I mean, I could pursue a master’s degree in a shortened period of time. Why wouldn’t I at least try?

So, now, here I stand in spring semester of my senior year, 100 percent unsure of what my future holds. Will I remain in East Lansing following graduation to take still more classes? If I cram in the credits summer and fall semesters, will I really be able to earn my master’s by December? It seems surreal. And if I choose to do so, will I have sufficient time to develop my master’s project? So much to think about. It’s baffling.

But just yesterday, I met two people in what seems like the exact opposite situation from me. They’re secure in their endeavors. They’ve built an empire based on what they love. But how did it all begin? With a tentative idea for a master’s project. Hmm.

Meet my new sources of comfort and inspiration: Andrew and Angie Norman, founders of Hear Nebraska.


During his time at Michigan State University, Andrew was a Knight Center for Environmental Journalism student like myself. And yet, while he crafted his master’s project based on the Great Lakes Echo—which he had begun writing for—it had nothing to do with the environment. He mimicked the way Great Lakes Echo fused two audiences—those based in the Great Lakes region and those interested in the environment—and instead combined people who live in his home state of Nebraska and who are interested in the music scene. Fortunately, our editor encouraged him to pursue his dream nonetheless.

And that he certainly did. The Normans recalled being about as broke as it gets, yet still paying at least $50 a month for their server space until a chance encounter with an unsuspecting man at a bar on a Sunday afternoon. (“That shows you where we were at that point in our lives,” they quipped. “…In a bar, on a Sunday afternoon.”) But the man told them he loved what they were doing, and the next day offered for his company to host their server for free.

Angie laughed as she described passing out hand-written “business cards” to as many people as she could at music festivals, and getting cut off from telling her dentist the story of Hear Nebraska because she finally went under for her procedure. Andrew recounted the remorse he initially felt when he discovered he would have to become a fundraiser and ask people for money to support the project.

But the two did so as a labor of love for their “baby,” and their efforts have paid off. They illuminated how meticulous design work, dependable social media postings and a fair share of leaps of faith crafted their simple master’s project idea into a “hip, good-vibes” organization among even millennials. Now their real baby, Townes, gets to tag along to festivals and concerts and meet famous musicians that most two-year-olds won’t be able to say they’ve witnessed when they’re older.

So sometimes you just have to play life by ear. You just have to let the melody play out, and be prepared for the offbeat. But soon enough, you’ll find yourself in tune with the harmonies.

Hear Nebraska has me listening for my calling, but also for the upbeat music along the way. I will immerse myself in whatever master’s project I might choose, and attempt to nurture it as effectively and lovingly as the Normans did theirs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s