Kolbo: Finds her passion and positivity after diagnosis

Photo Courtesy of unomaha.edu
Photo Courtesy of unomaha.edu

Amber Emanuel

When Grace Kolbo was diagnosed with carpal tunnel 18 months ago, she found herself limited in exercise options. The UNO vocal performance major was looking for alternatives when her aunt invited her to attend a Nia class, saying it was a fun, low-impact dance workout.

Initially, she didn’t enjoy it. But, she returned the next week with an open mind, leaving “my ego at the door.” She hasn’t turned back since. Now, Kolbo is using Nia to promote a healthy body image and self-awareness in musicians and anyone who needs it.

Nia is a 60-minute cardio workout that incorporates dance, and martial and healing arts, Kolbo said. It is a one-of-a-kind process, she said, that integrates the individual’s freedom of movement and self-expression.

The program resonates with her, she said, because she identifies as a performer. In addition to singing, Kolbo said, she has taken dance her entire life. These things, she said, have led her to need an outlet to express herself and move freely. Nia was that outlet.

Kolbo said she recognized how vocalists could benefit from the class. Because the voice is part of the body, frustration in the practice room or feeling self-conscious about one’s voice is “ultimately a reflection on you, because it’s in you.” She said Nia gave her tools to feel comfortable in her body and have more self-confidence, so she believed it could help other musicians as well.

Last spring, Grace applied for a FUSE grant to teach Nia to singers with help from her voice teacher, Shelby VanNordstrand. With the grant, Kolbo was able to complete her white belt certification and design a Nia class for vocalists at the UNO Health, Physical Education and Recreation building.

She has presented her “creative activity” at several fairs and conferences throughout the Midwest and will present at the National Association of Teachers of Singing National Conference in Chicago this July.

VanNordstrand met Kolbo when she auditioned for the Music Department as a senior in high school. She said she noticed how responsible, organized and driven Kolbo was. As her instructor in several ensembles, VanNordstrand has watched these qualities develop even more over the years.

She has seen Kolbo take on life with a consistently positive attitude. She always sees the glass half-full and “doesn’t let the negative pull her down,” she said. These qualities, VanNordstrand said, help her to be a successful, dynamic Nia instructor.

Jessica Gammons, a vocal music education major, has known Kolbo for three years. She said Kolbo is extremely down-to-earth, but has a quirky, entertaining sense of humor. What Gammons has noticed most is Kolbo’s passion for learning, she said, and her love for sharing that knowledge with everyone.

Gammons said she has attended several of Kolbo’s classes. Kolbo’s positive attitude shines through when she teaches, she said. She comes into the studio with a cheerful smile and kind words, Gammons said, “even if she’s tired or had a bad day.” Everything Kolbo does, she said, is for her students.