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  • Writer's pictureKurt J. Kolka


Feb. 2017 / By Kurt J. Kolka

LOS ANGELES -- On Monday, February 27, the eyes of millions were on a young Gaylord woman as she sang before an studio audience and four of music’s top talent on the NBC program, The Voice.

Gaylord High graduate, Lauren Duski brought out cheers from the crowd and had Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefani and Adam Levine fighting to become her coach on the show in the weeks ahead. Eventually, Shelton won out.

While that blind audition was a dream come true for Duski, her past 25 years on earth seem to filled with pre-auditions leading up to that very moment.

“I started singing as soon as I could talk,” says Duski. At least, that’s what her parents have always told her.

Certainly, her life has been filled with such moments. At a very young age, she attended an Elton John concert with her parents.

“I was so moved by that.”

Next, she sang karaoke on the Alpenstage during Alpenfest.

By age 9, Lauren was in a country band touring. They opened for such acts as Lone Star and Randy Travis. She could feel the love and support of the audience whenever she was on stage. It is a feeling which has always stayed with her.

Duski says she had grown up on country music and was inspired by singers such as Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Keith Urban and others.

During the early years, her friends thought touring with a band was really cool. However, during middle school, there was a time she cut back on her music to try to fit in among her peers. Even then, her desire to sing before others never went a away. She turned her bedroom into a music sanctuary for herself.

In high school, she attended Interlochen Arts Academy for a summer and had an opportunity to see another Northern Michigan singer, Jewel, in concert. While she was unable to talk with Jewel, her song, “You Were Meant For Me,” stayed with Duski and would become the song she would audition for The Voice with. (Immediately after the audition’s broadcast, Jewel tweeted Duski with approval and congratulations.)

Upon graduating, Duski went on to the University of Michigan (U of M) where she entered a pre-dentistry program. Still, performing before audiences with her music remained her love.

Graduating from U of M in 2013, she spent nine months in Chicago writing commercial music.

On a visit to Nashville, she happened to meet independent filmmaking couple Marvin and Ann Gillis who convinced her to move to Nashville to be closer to those involved in country music. They took her under their wings and helped her hone who she was as an artist.

Then, Ann Gillis was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). To pay back the Gillies for their kindness, she became Ann’s full-time caretaker.

It was recently Duski heard about auditions for The Voice in Atlanta. She tried out on a whim.

Two weeks later, driving to a friend’s birthday party, Duski received a phone call telling her she had been selected for a blind audition on The Voice. The only problem: she could not tell anyone.

Secrecy is big part of being on The Voice. Duski is still not allowed to tell when the blind audition was taped, only that it was “recently,” nor is she allowed to say where they are at in the taping of episodes.

During her blind audition, her parents Drs. Ed and Janis Duski were allowed to stay with her and be just off stage during the audition itself. She looked to them for reassurance and support during the whole experience.

“I am still pinching myself that this is real,” says Duski. To make it through the audition, Duski says, “It took a lot of focus. I lost myself in the song and the feelings. The most important thing was to remind myself to enjoy [the moment] and have fun.”

Immediately after her performance, she began to see the Gaylord community reaching out to her.

“I don’t believe I have ever felt this much love in my life. I’ve been crying since [Monday] because of all the support I’ve received.”

Her strategy throughout the upcoming competition, says Duski, is to stay true to herself as an artist. And she is proud to be from Gaylord, often telling others about Northern Michigan.

While certain information must be kept secret for now, she is looking forward to sharing more through the Herald Times as the contest progresses in the weeks ahead.


May 24, 2017 / by Kurt J. Kolka

GAYLORD – Hundreds held their breath Tuesday night, May 23, at Ellison Place as the Master of Ceremonies for “The Voice” TV program prepared to read off the winner of the competition. People around Northern Michigan, especially in Otsego County, had been following the competition, which included hometown singer Lauren Duski, since February.

Among the hundreds at Ellison Place were some who had known Duski for years. Gaylord High School teacher Laura Hotelling said, “I had Lauren in Spanish I, helped her out with Battle of the Bands and had her for Foreign Language Day. “She was so talented even then, I just had the privilege of working with her. I never really had to do anything or suggest anything.”

Al and Sandy Glasby, founders of Gaylord Community Productions (GCP), were also at the Ellison Place gathering to cheer on Duski. “We've known Lauren since she was 7 years-old, when she was in [our production of] 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat,' said Sandy. “It was one of our very first shows.

“She then did some country music for a while and then came back to us and became Jasmine in 'Aladin.' She also did 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Into the Woods.'” “We were very fortunate to have her with us for four of the 22 shows we've done,” noted Al. “We are are just so proud and pleased. This is wonderful!”

The years she was away from from acting and singing in GCP proved to be a turning point in Duski's life. By age 9, Lauren was in a country band touring. They opened for such acts as Lone Star and Randy Travis. She could feel the love and support of the audience whenever she was on stage. It is a feeling which has always stayed with her. While in high school, shew attended Interlochen Academy for the Arts for a summer. It was there she had the opportunity to watch another of Northern Michigan's musical treasures, Jewel, perform. Although she didn't meet Jewel then, her blind audition for “The Voice” was a Jewel song. Immediately after the performance, Jewel tweeted her, "Great hearing @LaurenDuski sing #youweremeantforme for @blakeshelton team on @NBCTheVoice !! Go Girl!!."

Lauren chose to be part of Blake Shelton's team after her audition and kept hitting the Top Ten on the charts after each of her performances.

“I am still pinching myself that this is real,” said Duski after the blind performance. That blind audition only proved to be a stepping stone to the amazing journey which followed. Duski said she had been brought to tears by community support over the past few months.

Both Gaylord High School and St. Mary Cathedral School, which she attended, held assemblies in support of her back in April. When the verdict finally came down on the TV program on Tuesday night, local residents naturally had mixed reactions. They were disheartened by her loss to Chris Blue and yet thankful for seeing her journey into country music begin.

“Honestly, I already felt like a winner going in the Final Four,” said Duski on Wednesday afternoon. “I am filled with so much gratitude and am completely overwhelmed by the support. “For the first time in my life, I am finally able to see my true self.”

Her immediate plans are to return to Nashville to record “Deja Vu.” After that, she says she'd like to return to Gaylord, before school lets out if possible, to share her music with her hometown. Plans for a tour are just getting started. Lauren says what people saw on TV regarding the relationships between the artists and their coaches, and among artists themselves were real. She has made friendships to last a lifetime.

“There are no words to describe how thankful I am to the people of Gaylord. They have such big hearts. I owe everything to the people there.” Throughout her time on “The Voice,”

Duski has been partnering with SunFrog Shirts in Gaylord. A portion of the proceeds from purchases of Team Lauren T-shirts are benefiting the ALS Association in battling Lou Gehrig’s disease, as it is often known. SunFrog Shirts can ordered online at or purchased at the SunFrog store in downtown Gaylord.

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