It’s fitting that Disney would use singer/songwriter Angie Keilhauer’s voice in the theme song “Happily Ever After” for their new fireworks and lightshow at Disney World this year. That’s because the song’s lyrics match Angie’s own story of rising to stardom from overcoming loss, taking chances and making her dreams come true.
“My career path, being a singer/songwriter, is not conventional and most people don't think that's going to be a steady job,” said Angie. “But I think the reality of the market right now is there's no such thing as a steady job, and it really takes a creative mind to feel confident in an industry.”
First, it took confidence for her to surrender her college scholarship toward an engineering degree when the coursework didn’t sing to her soul. She found herself constantly returning to music, and eventually she moved forward to engineer her own brand of success.
“In my mind [engineering] was like probably one of the steadiest workforces out there,” said Angie. “And I wanted to do music, but I didn't know how to make education and music come together. Like there was no, ‘this is how you make a career in music.’ So, I decided that college was not the right path, and I went and did it myself.”
"It was funny—that one class I was doubting I'd ever use was one of the biggest helps in my career."
Soon, though, Angie found that while she had the tunes, she lacked the business know-how to back up her talents.
“I struggled because I didn't know things like accounting cash flow and how to invest back into what I was doing,” she said. “So, I found myself in a lot of difficult situations, and that's when I started thinking I really have to learn how to run a business, not just play good music.”
She was back to square one, wondering how she’d balance work and school, until she saw her own mother pursue an online program at Western Governors University.
“Watching her do that, I was like, ‘well, where is the limit for me’ you know?” said Angie. “And I think that is the beautiful thing about doing something that other people think you can't do is you open their horizons, too.”
Once Angie started school again, other horizons in her music career opened and she became a contestant on NBC’s television show The Voice. It was an exciting time for her, yet behind the scenes, she continued her degree course work and meeting the challenge of staying focused on her big dreams.
“When I was on The Voice, we were all sequestered in this one hotel in Burbank, California,” said Angie. “All my friends were all hanging out by the pool and I was learning fundamentals of business law. And I remember thinking, ‘this is so silly, like, I'm not going to be a lawyer, why am I learning this?’”
Her answer to that came after the show, when she had a large contract to sign and drew on that course to help her navigate the legalese and develop a marking plan for her career.
“I was like, ‘well, I just read this whole textbook full of legal jargon, maybe I'll give this a try,’” she said. “So that course led me to a top five album release on iTunes. It was funny—that one class I was doubting I'd ever use was one of the biggest helps in my career.”
Angie celebrated her educational and career success simultaneously. This last spring, she received her bachelor’s degree in marketing management from WGU at the Cincinnati, Ohio commencement ceremonies. And following her album release, and recording the song for Walt Disney World, she went on tour with country music singer and songwriter Jake Owen and performed to a soldout show in Nashville.
“I didn't think it was possible to work full time, travel the world and still get a degree at the same time,” said Angie. “And it was possible. It's hard to commit to a passion. But eventually you've got to look at your life and ask, ‘what is the one thing I can't let go of?’ And you've got to just jump in with everything inside you because that's what's going to bring about the best life you'll ever live.”