Lauren Podjun: The Story So Far- Living and Thriving with Dyslexia
When Lauren Podjun was a little girl, her mother asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up.
“I wanna be a rock star,” she said.
It’s taken her 22 years, but Podjun is closer than ever to reaching her dream. As a college student with a Major in Vocal Performance, she spends the majority of her day surrounded by other musicians and, most importantly, music.
It’s always been this way for Podjun, even as a child. After moving to Wyoming in 2008, her parents put enrolled her in piano lessons. While the lessons were monotonous at first, they developed a very strong foundation for Podjun in regards to music.
“I think when you’re a kid, you hate practicing,” Podjun said. “No kid likes to practice, but I started getting into ensembles at school and I loved it. It was the most amazing experience. The most amazing experiences I’ve had in school have been with my music groups.”
“Practicing is always a chore, but it’s a chore I’d rather do than math homework,” she continued.
In truth, Podjun would rather do anything than math homework. Or any schoolwork, for that matter. She isn’t lazy- far from it, actually. But Lauren is one of the 43.5 million Americans living with dyslexia.
“Dyslexia- that’s where the problems with school came from,” Podjun shared. “It’s always been there. It’s just wanting to be so much better than I am; the perfectionist thing. Having that learning disability has really been rough on me because I just wanted to be the best [as a kid]. I wanted to be able to read as fast as the other kids. I didn’t want to be in the ‘special classes.’ I didn’t want to fall behind.”
School is a hard experience for any kid, but factoring in the difficulties that come with dyslexia only added to the stress.
Luckily, there was always music.
“Music really kept me in school, and it was so lovely to have such an amazing teacher help me and give me a place to be,” Podjun said. “Every kid needs that. Every kid needs a place to feel at home and I really felt at home in a band room.”
It was the piano lessons that first instilled a love of music for Lauren, but it was when she was 11 years old that she realized music was her future.
“When I got into my first ensemble in 5th grade, Ms. Hanson changed my life forever,” she said.
School could have been a miserable experience for Lauren but she found something that gave her peace.
“Music, for me, was everything,” she said. “I was not good at school. I struggled but I found a lot of refuge in music, so I put my whole heart into it. Everything I had went into music, because music is where I really felt like I could really give.”
Music really was a refuge for Podjun but, as she grew older, it became something so much more. It became her blanket. It became the window to her soul. Music, for all intents and purposes, became her life.
While she loved performing in ensembles, and one day dreams of joining a band to collaborate with others, Podjun currently works as a solo act. She has performed all across the Casper and beyond, playing gigs at Metro Coffee Co., David Street Station, Racca’s Pizzeria, Frontier Brewing Co. and more.
Podjun is but one of the myriad of talented individuals that Casper has to offer. It is her instrument of choice, however, that really makes her stand out.
“I played piano and wrote a lot of my music on piano at first, but I realized I couldn’t take a piano everywhere I went, so I would strum on my viola, which eventually kind of ruined the viola,” she remembered. “I looked around for stringed instruments that I could take with me and I didn’t want to play guitar. My hands are too small. I couldn’t get my hand around the neck of the instrument. I tried the ukulele and I was like, ‘Oh wow! I like this a lot.’”
And so the ukulele became her instrument of choice. It has come with her to a wide-array of gigs around Casper and it has really differentiated her from all of the other wonderful local musicians.
Another thing that makes Podjun stand out from the pack is her style of writing. Not content to just play cover songs, Podjun loves writing and performing her own music. She loves telling stories.
“My songs are very story-based,” she admitted. “I love stories so, in a lot of my songs, you’ll hear different perspectives from different people.”
She continued, saying that she “want[s] [the audience] to be able to hear what I’m saying, so words are very important to me. If they can visualize what I’m singing, then that’d be great. If they can just go home and think ‘Wow! That’s a really awesome adventure that person went on. I can see it and I can see myself doing it.’”
Podjun, at a very young age, saw herself as a performer. She followed the path that had been written for her and found something inside of herself that not everybody finds. She found passion. She found music. She found love, not only for music but, most importantly, for herself.
“Dyslexia has shown me that it’s okay to do things a little different,” she stated. “It’s okay to ask for help. I still struggle with asking for help; I always have. But with music and the dyslexia, sometimes I’ll get upset because music is the same thing as reading and it’s the same thing as math. I struggle. I get things wrong. I’ll play something backwards, I’ll mess up my own words. That’s the hardest thing; when you write your own phrase and then you mess it up. But I keep going.”
She keeps going. She will continue to keep going, playing as many gigs inside and outside of Casper as she can. She will continue to write songs and she will continue to tell stories. She’ll continue to share her story, as well, because she wants younger kids to know that they are not defined by their disability. Podjun is passionate about her music, but she is even more passionate about instilling love, for music and for themselves, to children.
That passion led to a teaching job with Vibes Performing Arts, in Casper. Suddenly, the girl that hated school was now a teacher herself, and she loved it.
“Working at Vibes was a really interesting experience and it’s one of the best experiences, I think, that will teach me about music and the impact that it has on others,” she shared. “Music had such a strong impact on me, it’s important for me to want to pass that on. I always said I never wanted to be a teacher, but I just kept coming back to it. I really loved it. The people there are amazing and so talented and so driven. They work so hard and I felt really lucky to be there.”
Maybe luck has played a hand in Lauren Podjun’s life. But, as Billy Zane once said, a real man (or woman) makes his (or her!) own luck. That’s what Lauren did. She took a dream and turned it into a reality. She took a disability and turned it into a teaching tool.
More than anything, she took a love for music and she turned it into a story.
To hear more of Lauren’s story, visit her music page at https://www.facebook.com/Lauren-Podjun-Music-266496020856027/?ref=py_c