Editor’s note: This is one in a series of profiles in the Humans of Wausau series, which is funded in part through a grant from the B. A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation. Follow the Humans of Wausau Facebook page here.
By Kelli Oligney for Wausau Pilot and Review
Carmyn Hoen, 31
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I was born in Iowa, but grew up in Gillett, Wisconsin which is a small town of 1,300 people. My family moved to the area when I was in 5th grade and have been in the Wausau/Schofield area since.
What brought your family to the area?
My dad is a pastor and was called to a different congregation here. He was at the last congregation for about 10 years and now has been at Mt. Calvary in Rothschild for at least 20 years.
Do you currently reside in Wausau?
I live on the East side of Wausau by Leigh Yawkey. I love the East side; it’s so cute.
What do you do for a living and how did you decide that path?
My husband and I play music together and are in two bands: Open Tab, which is an acoustic duo, and a full five-piece band which is The Third Wheels. We play over 150 shows a year so that is our full-time job. I don’t believe I necessarily decided that path, but it was what we were both interested in and it became entangled in our lives. For us, playing music is a lot better than working a 9 to 5 job and being able to do what you enjoy. I also serve at Sconni’s and the Hilton a few days a week.
If you didn’t play music full time, is there another career you could imagine pursuing?
I don’t think so because I haven’t had as much passion for anything else. I couldn’t be an engineer. I wouldn’t be into graphic design and can’t do tech type things. Music is always what I really wanted to do.
What are positives and negatives of a career in music?
We get to hang out with friends a lot and travel. We pretty much get paid vacations to travel together and stay in places like Door County and other places. Negatives include not having a life on the weekend and trying to get back to “normal life” when not on the road performing. It’s hard to wake up at 6 a.m. after being used to staying awake until 4 a.m., after coming home from gigs. It’s hard not being able to see my friends on weekends. I love them because they keep inviting me places even though I can’t make it.
How far do you typically travel for shows?
We work with a production company out of the Fox Valley so a lot of our shows are in the Fox Valley, Green Bay, Appleton, and Door County area. We’ve played shows before Packer pre-season games and played New Years at Lambeau Field. We’ve done shows in Rochester, Minnesota for weddings and travel where people will pay us.
If you had to give advice to anyone, what would it be?
One of the biggest things especially pertaining to your job is to find someplace, somewhere, or something that makes you happy. Where you work should give you the ability to go there crabby and leave there happier. I am lucky because all my jobs do that for me. If you are spending the majority of your time in a place, I feel that place should be something that is good for you mentally and financially, but mainly mentally. It’s a lot easier to live a good life when you’re mentally stable than financially stable; I believe that completely.
What was one of your hardest ages growing up?
My hardest age was when I was 17 because I had my oldest son my junior year. I was pregnant from September to May; pregnant the entire junior year. My senior year I had my baby and my parents were a huge help, but it was a big adjustment. Having him saved my life and turned my life around. I started making better decisions for myself and learned who my support system was. I had to be okay with not fitting in in social situations. I will never say it wasn’t stressful, but it was all for the better. At the time, if you would have asked me, I would have told you it was the worst thing, but it was excellent. My oldest son will be 14 in May. I have two boys; 14 and 8.
Do you have any hobbies you enjoy outside of music?
I love playing video games with my youngest son. He’s better than me so I’m mad about that all the time, but it’s good to see him excel. My hobbies are mainly being able to spend time with friends and family because I don’t get to do that often. Friends and family are the main focus of my life outside of what we do.
What was a moment in life that changed you?
The birth of my oldest and youngest son. However, having a child when I was young was very different. The first time I got on stage was the best. The feeling of applause and a standing ovation makes you want to do that forever because it feels so great.
What keeps you in the area?
All of my family lives here. There’s a great community here and we meet wonderful people wherever we go. It’s nice to have a big city with the amenities, but also be able to go into any place and recognize people. It has a small town community feel to it, but has the amenities of a bigger town.
What motivates you each day?
I want to be really good at what I do. I want to be so good that I don’t have to work hard. That sounds terrible, but I want to be able to focus all my extra time outside of performing on my husband, family, and friends. I want to be successful so I can have the time and means to spend as much time as I want with my family and friends without having to worry about anything else. I’m very grateful to be able to perform multiple times a week, but would like to make a little more money so I can take less shows and spend more time with my kids and husband.
What are some favorite memories of living in Wausau?
There were a lot of differences between cities when moving from Gillett to here. Gillett was a small town and when I moved here, it seemed like the biggest city I’ve ever seen. There are a great amount of opportunities here such as CWETA (Central Wisconsin Educational Theater Alliance) that have big shows where all the high schools audition together and do a huge production. Being involved in CWETA was an amazing and unforgettable experience that I’ll always remember. Other favorite memories were meeting my husband living here and being able to grow our bands here. We had to beg places to book us and people were incredibly supportive.
What changes would you like to see in the community in the next five years?
Wausau is on a good track and I see a lot more art, music, and people who value those things more. I also think it’s important to continue to be an integrated community where everyone attempts to understand other cultures. We have a lot of great festivals with the Hmong community where everyone has the opportunity to attend and the Native American community where you can understand the culture. I hope in the future we can have a lot more communication on the black community in Wausau; it’s growing, and that’s amazing. I remember when I moved here, it was only me and two other friends in our grade of 400 kids. Now, when I drop off my kids at school, I see growth in the community as far as different cultures and I love that; I hope the growth will continue and that everyone will want to understand other cultures and where people come from.