Ann Reed was never real big on structure. So after an unspectacular sophomore year in high school, she jumped at the chance to be in the School Within a School program at Minnetonka, where students could design their own curriculum.
"It was perfect for someone like me," she says. "I liked to explore things on my own. There were a lot of people exploring and challenging themselves and it was great to see."
That open atmosphere proved to be beneficial in creating what has been a wide-ranging, critically acclaimed music career that has covered the United States and Canada.
"The school within a school really helped me, because when you're self-employed, you have to be really self-directed in making your way," Ann says.
She learned to play the guitar when she was 12, and by the time she got to high school, she was "hanging out with a lot of great guitar players" and playing bass clarinet in the band, which was directed by Dan Geldert.
"I was really struck by Dan's passion for music and his message that music is so much more than the black dots on the page," she says. "He encouraged us to feel the music."
Another major influence was her advisor Mary Skoy, who planted the seeds within a songwriter.
"We had a pretty thorough reading list," Ann says. "Mary was key to introducing me to literature, more intense language and how we use words. Having both Dan and Mary was a perfect thing for me."
Ann's musical career has taken her everywhere, from the smallest clubs to the biggest outdoor festivals to national media stages. No matter where she goes, she always donates 25 percent of her touring efforts to charity, focusing on causes that help women and children, like the Girl Scouts and Habitat for Humanity.
"I feel like when you're given any kind of gift, you give back," she says.
Ann's fans have also been given a gift, which they've been enjoying for more than 30 years.