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A Jane of All Trades

What do a wedding officiant, violinist, actor, stunt performer, stunt-coordinator, singer/songwriter, and audio book narrator have in common? They are all means of employment for New Orleans resident and Nueva alumna Olga Munding ’86. She also publishes the occasional short story and in the future hopes to complete a book on the time she spent with blues legend Jessie Mae Hemphill. 

Working multiple jobs means Olga doesn’t have a set 9-5 schedule, and she thrives on that dynamism. “I tried having a ‘stable’ job and that made me miserable,” Olga said. “There is no such thing as ‘stable’ as life is continuous, and it ebbs and flows.”

Many people would fear the unpredictability inherent in holding multiple, unorthodoxly-scheduled gigs, but that is exactly where Olga has hit her stride.

“The trick is to become comfortable with the unknown, the instability,” said Olga. “This has never been more true and profound than when I took up skydiving, which forces you to become comfortable with the flow and stay in the moment. The outcome of doing and being such, is pure joy and freedom like you have never known.”

That approach has given Olga the chance to accomplish greater things than even she believed she was capable of. One such victory from 2011 stands out. As a violinist in the movie GI Joe 2, Olga needed to learn to play a violin part and two intricate solos without any sheet music to work from for filming a full orchestra piece. Even though the orchestra would be playing to a pre-recorded track when the cameras were rolling, Olga still needed to look like she was fully playing the piece. She felt uncertain whether she could pull it off, having recently taken up violin again after not practicing for many years. After momentarily panicking over the immensity of the task, Olga divided her solos into sections and methodically memorized them by ear in under an hour, a speed that surprised even her. Then she systematically practiced playing the solos to build them into her muscle memory.

“It was a very big emotional leap for me, and I realized that I could call upon that focus and skill at any time I wished.”

While each job offers unique learning opportunities, it’s a challenge for Olga to give due attention to her multiple talents and jobs, and she used to stress over neglecting any one of them.

“Then I decided I needed to change my attitude and feelings of guilt because it was not serving me,” said Olga. “I think of it as one day I am focused on a certain skill, and maybe the next day or another day I spend time on something else. The lazy Susan spins around and eventually I will get to what I need to when it comes back around. One thing at a time.”

In the potential bustle of working multiple jobs or looking for new projects, Olga’s compass for navigating the unknown remains her core identity, much of which was calibrated during her childhood at Nueva.

“That person never leaves you as it is the first of who you are and have learned and what you have had impressed upon you those early years,” said Olga. “Those feelings, discoveries, and knowledge might get buried because you try to fit in elsewhere, or you conform to the opinions and standards of others, but they never leave.”

The roots of Olga’s various talents and interests can also be traced back to her years at Nueva where she was involved in many theater productions and was a Menuhin scholar for violin, piano, and music composition. To this day, Olga still has dreams about Nueva, recalling lots of field trips and extensive time playing outside exploring the grounds, building forts, and playing imaginary stories with made up characters.

“I basically live and act and believe as I did when I was seven, eight, and nine years old, where everything was possible, where I had no fear, no things holding me back,” said Olga. “This attitude and perspective has opened doors for me to do things I never imagined before and even return to dreams I had forgotten about.”

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 Andrew Lam and his parents in a city

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