Love of the Arts: Harpist Harmonizes Music with Lessons for a Life Well-Lived

Callie (Berg) Stadem '13 playing the harp at Augustana's Viking Varieties in 2011.

Written by Noah Wicks '21

Growing up, Callie (Berg) Stadem ‘13 thought she would probably attend a state university close to her home in Northwood, North Dakota. Stadem’s father was a small-town physician and her mother was a physical therapist. All three of her sisters had gone into medicine, so she was considering following the same path. But as one of the only harpists in the state, her mentor, Augustana Harp Instructor Anna Vorhes, urged her to go somewhere where she could continue cultivating her skills with the instrument.

“She (Vorhes) was just kind of appalled that I would consider going somewhere that wasn’t a liberal arts school, and that didn’t have a harp program,” Stadem said. “And she was, as always, right.”

Augustana was added to her list and after listening to Professor of Philosophy Dr. David O’Hara at a scholarship event, she knew it was the place for her.

“He (O’Hara) used a phrase I’ve heard him use many times since, something like ‘we cultivate beauty without excess,’” she said. “That hit home.”

Stadem enrolled at Augustana and graduated four years later with majors in music and philosophy. Some of her favorite memories stem from deep, late-night conversations with her classmates and friends — including her husband, David Stadem ‘12.

“Those are the most cherished memories, being with those people and exploring how to think and how our lives work with other people in the world,” she said.

Now, as a freelance harpist and instructor at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, Stadem tries to not only teach her students how to play the harp, but also the deeper lessons on how to live a good life. 

“My goal is to help them live well-considered lives, thinking about other people and about what they can do to serve humanity, and how they can connect with a deeper part of themselves,” said Stadem.

The harpist is excited to watch the Augustana University School of Music take shape. She says expanding the department’s curriculum can be effective for teaching musicians important skills, like how to use technology to create music. In particular, she believes that Studio 47 — Augustana's world-class recording studio — will be useful for students.

“It sounds like real-world skills are what you gain out of the studio and that's really exciting,” she said. 

Stadem encourages young musicians to pursue music if they have the passion for it, understanding that there will be twists and turns along the way.

Stadem said, “Absolutely do it if you feel led to, but also consider that it is a challenging career, and sometimes, it’s not meant for everyone.”

Stadem believes that studying music was the right choice for her and Augustana was the right place to do it. 

“It is such a treasure to have a faith community that is so deep and joyful and thoughtful and oriented toward helping people live good lives,” she said. “Augie meant a lot to me.”


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