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Kristen Cyr
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Aspiring music teacher has learned the power of pursuing your passions

May 17, 2016

Laura Ferrick Laura Ferrick

There have been many moments in Laura Ferrick's life where she easily could have been derailed.

There was the time she had to drop out of high school because of bullying. Or the time when she saved up for a car – $1,000 in $1 bills from tips and the $1,000 from her paychecks at a local coffee shop – only to total it two months later. There was the sudden death of her father, a man she could always count on to be there for her. But the train stayed on the tracks, gathering steam all the while.

"There's a saying about four candles," said Ferrick, 26, a creative personality who tends to speak in metaphors and references to literature, poetry and music. "Faith, love, peace and hope. And even if the first three go out, hope is what can relight them all. I really hold on to that."

And hope – with a lot of hard work – has carried this Music major from Jamestown through.

A student who received good grades in school – she remembered being in first grade and helping her older sister, a fourth-grader, by doing her projects for her – Ferrick was a natural in the classroom. But when her high school turned into a hostile environment and her home life was also hectic, Ferrick dropped out of high school, moved into her own place and jumped into the job market.

She bounced around between different apartments, working endless shifts at coffee houses to support herself. Before she had a car, she biked the miles to work every day, eventually moving closer to her job. After she totaled the car she purchased, eager to keep those candles lit, she held onto hope.

After a few years, she went for her GED® credential, and eventually started taking classes at the Community College of Rhode Island Newport County Campus. In 2011, she moved in with her boyfriend of six years at the time, Richard, relieving some of her financial stress.

"That's when I was able to come back to school," she said, adding that Richard, who owns his own landscaping and construction business, supported her financially as well as emotionally. "I was just working all the time chasing money before. I never would have been able to do this without his support."

With his help, Ferrick was able to cut back on her work hours and make more time for her studies and her many passions. Chief among those is music, which enthralled her. As early as the second grade, she enjoyed composing her own songs on her mother's piano. In the sixth grade, she came home with a list of instruments that students interested in the band were encouraged to learn.

"We didn't have much money, but my dad always came through," she said, "and the next week when I saw him on visitation, there was a flute on my bed."

She has played that flute faithfully ever since. "It was only a $700 student model Gemeinhardt flute. My flute teacher, John Curran, said I really needed to look into a professional model flute, one that was more than $2,000," she said. "And my teachers were pleased to see how much I had learned without ever taking lessons before. But my flute teacher saw I wasn't going to let the flute go. So he gave me a head joint from a Yamaha flute, so the tone was better, but the body of the flute was still the original."

The flute has become more treasured. Using the money she earned in a lawsuit following her father's death, she plans to buy a new flute on which she will engrave "Every note in honor of MMF."

"It's an honor in a way to still be able to play the flute my father gave me 15 years ago. It gave me leadership skills, friendship, mathematical skills, reading skills – I can learn languages better, because music is a language," she said.

It is impossible not to feel those metaphorical candles catching flame as Ferrick describes her love of music. She spoke of how it's been proven to move elements, as well as our spirits. "It makes one cry, it makes one happy. We sing at every celebration," she said.

Looking to the future, Ferrick hopes to be an evangelist of sorts for music, moving forward with her education so that she can eventually teach music at the college level. After graduating with a 3.83 GPA this month, she will transfer to Rhode Island College this fall to earn her bachelor's degree in music education. She recalled the impact that teachers such as Professor Carol Panaccione had on her desire to give back through education: "If I thought I was going to be a teacher, she put the stamp of approval on it," Ferrick said. "She teaches more than just languages."

Like Panaccione, Ferrick is herself a bit of a polymath. She excitedly ticked off the creative projects she immerses herself in: sewing and fashion, writing ("I have 10 books outlined on my computer; it's my life story," she said) and poetry. In talking to Ferrick, it can be easy to forget that one is talking to a full-time student, stepmother and part-time waitress. Where does she find the time? But for Ferrick, pursuing her passions is not a question of passing time. It goes much deeper.

"If you lose your passions, you'll be miserable," she said. "You'll do nothing but work. And what are you working for? To keep a roof over your head, but without any paintings on the wall? What's the point of building a house if you're not going to fill it with love? It's just a structure, a statue."

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Last Updated: 8/25/16