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What makes a story meaningful? Its characters? Its plot? Maybe it’s all about its impact, or the language with which the story itself is told – or on some profound level, what if what makes a story truly meaningful… is a simple measurement of the quality, human conversations that its distinctive content provokes?
*We’re a team of creatives here at Make it Marquette – and yes, we absolutely had a bit too much fun with that opener*
BUT, the point that we’re trying to make – is that between all of those painfully introspective things we listed just now, they have something in common; and that’s strength. There is strength in every meaningful story, pretty much all the way through – any way you want to look at it. Here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and within our humble Marquette region, in particular, there’s an undeniable, practically immeasurable amount of strength to be found – EVERYWHERE. With all that strength though, it does beg a certain question of… ‘where exactly can we find its accompanying story?’.
Today, Upper Michigan’s story belongs to Andrew LaCombe. Freshly appointed as the new TV6 News Director back in April of last year, Andrew is quite literally responsible for wrangling together the stories happening throughout our entire region (and beyond) every single day, and just as importantly, he acts as chief curator for the fair & responsible environment from which those stories are eventually told. Nothing gets past Andrew, not even us, so let’s return the favor – shall we?
Andrew LaCombe is – comin’-up-next, ON… People of Marquette.
*Any & all article-related complaints may be mailed directly into the depths of Lake Superior*
Becoming a Storyteller: The Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum & 8-18 Media
“I grew up watching TV6 and so I knew from a young age what I wanted to do”, Andrew began while sitting behind the distinctly recognizable anchor news desk from the set of WLUC’s own TV6 News as we chatted. A slightly unusual location from where we normally choose to conduct these interviews for our People of Marquette series – we might agree – but the majority of our filming locations, as we ourselves recall, have often taken place wherever our featured locals feel some sense of personal comfort & connection to the Marquette region… and Andrew’s case is no different. “I had an aunt who worked at the [TV6 News] station”, he continued, “and so I got to come up to TV6 and meet the faces, take old news scripts and weather maps home, and that just started my fascination with TV and broadcast and local news”. Born and raised right here in Marquette, we were pleased to hear that Andrew’s earliest influences weren’t just limited to broadcast journalism; “I grew up in South Marquette with my parents, and my brother and sister… we were really close to trails or hiking all the time; biking in the woods, playing at the park. I spent a lot of time outdoors growing up… that was what we did as a family – go on hikes and go camping… so, you know, we grew up like a typical Marquette family; we spent a lot of time outdoors. So that was part of my childhood, part of my whole life.”
When he wasn’t in the middle of some family adventure through the woods, Andrew was busy taking up every opportunity to inject himself into the beginnings of his storytelling career – even at a surprisingly young age; “When I was in 2nd grade, one of the teachers recommended that I join the program at the Children’s Museum called 8-18 Media. It’s a program for kids between the ages of eight and eighteen… they’re writing stories or doing broadcasts on the radio… it’s a program of youth empowerment”. The program, which you can find more about here, is a long-established community program that still runs through the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum today. “It’s a chance to get kid’s voices out there for people of all ages to read or listen to”, he went on, “and from a young age that was huge to me; [the program] gave me the chance to learn how to write, learn how to interview people. I traveled a lot with 8-18 Media. I went to political conventions, and talked to elected leaders about important issues.” Speaking from this point onwards from his current perspective as a contributor to today’s 8-18 Media program, he finished his thoughts by expressing just how important he believes it is to give young children a dedicated environment to develop their voices.
Alongside Andrew’s growing interests in newscasting & the outdoors, as a younger child,
He was also acquiring some notable skills as a musician; “One of my other big passions in life is music… I started in 4th grade, and I’ve been playing the cello ever since”. Leading up to his high school graduation, in fact, it may surprise you to learn that Andrew had actually decided to lean into his musical interests by making it the chief focus of his undergraduate studies in college; “I went to Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, for a Bachelor of Music degree in Teleperformance with a minor in Government”, he recalled, “I got four intense years of music education… learning music theory and music history and playing in ensembles.” His passions for government, politics & news, however, never waned; “I did an internship at a TV station when I was in college, and then – I actually left school a couple of weeks early before graduation – and came to work back here at TV6”. “I spent a year [at TV6] as a morning reporter”, he explained about his initial employment for our local broadcast station, “then after that, I moved back to the Green Bay area and worked at Fox 11… which was a great job. I was an investigative and political reporter [at Fox 11], so that was a great opportunity for my passions in politics, local TV, and investigative journalism… I did that for three years”.
As we’re sure you’ll have guessed, Andrew would eventually transition from his work in Green Bay and make a more permanent move into some… much more familiar territory; “I was coming home all the time on the weekends back to Marquette”, he hinted, adding that he had also become aware of an opportunity to come back as a morning news anchor with TV6 around that same time. Officially returning to Marquette towards the beginning of 2017, Andrew leaped straight back into his familiar role with TV6 – but not without bringing some of his invaluable professional experiences in Green Bay along with him. Around the same time, Andrew was also becoming aware of some exciting growth opportunities coming in the near future within TV6, saying “TV6 had, and still has, longevity in a lot of the main roles, but obviously there were going to be opportunities coming up.” Clearly referencing what would eventually become a long, continuous wave of retirements from the ‘principal cast’ at TV6 over recent years, Andrew continued by simply saying: “I kind of saw that coming… I had a good relationship with the management here, and knew that it would be a good time for me to come back”.
Marquette Symphony Orchestra: Pandemic Pivots
“I love sitting on the stage and sharing my music with anyone, whether it’s an audience of five people or an audience of a thousand people”, Andrew said while reflecting even further on his passion for the art form. Practically in parallel with his return to TV6 News, Andrew simultaneously became involved in the Marquette Symphony Orchestra here in town following his move. “Marquette has some great music teachers, and they instilled a love for music in me, and now, I get to pass that on as a teacher myself and as a performer”. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, however, there was an obvious threat to performance art on a global scale. That impact was also felt here in Marquette, of course, with large-scale shutdowns & mandatory event cancellations. With the Marquette Symphony Orchestra’s (MSO) ingenuity to thank, however, the ever-passionate group powered on ahead, providing several unique evenings of music & entertainment to anyone with access to a computer & an internet connection.
“We did some great things through the pandemic to keep the symphony alive and make it even stronger”, he explained, “obviously, when the pandemic started, we didn’t know what to do… that was [the orchestra’s] identity; live performances, in-person performances. So, we kind of looked around at what some other organizations were doing”. Citing some of his acquired video & audio skills in the broadcast world, as well as a gathered interest from other members within the organization itself, the MSO was able to make a lasting impact on the community; “Taking 65 musicians on camera and putting them into some kind of video is something I’d never done before”, he explained, noting how intentional their efforts were to make sure anyone watching from their homes could still feel a certain level of excitement. “We put together a lot of virtual performances”, he added, clearly proud of how successful they were; “We reached a lot of new people through the power of the internet and social media, and I think that brought a lot of joy to people around the holidays”.
Clearly enthusiastic about the Marquette Symphony Orchestra’s continued efforts (even outside of the pandemic) to make an impact in their local community, Andrew made sure to mention just how adventurous the organization has been in recent years; “We do five concerts a year on that stage… but we also try to do some performances outside of Kaufman Auditorium: we’ve done a lot more outdoor performances, we’ve played at breweries… we’re trying to get the music in different places that you wouldn’t expect to hear classical music”, he explained, adding “It’s its own community, the music community; especially the classical music community in Marquette. It’s strong and vibrant – and I want to keep that going and be a part of that”. At the time of writing, the Marquette Symphony Orchestra is in the midst of their 25th season anniversary celebration, ending with their concert that takes place on May 7th in Kaufman Auditorium on NMU’s main campus. By the time you’re reading this article, it’s very likely that their final performance for the season has already taken place – but we encourage you to check out the MSO & to keep an eye out for coming announcements regarding their new 2022-2023 season.
TV6 News Director
By the end of our chat with Andrew, it was difficult to not feel inspired. His incredible dedication to not just his work, but to everything he does outside of his work speaks volumes about what makes Marquette… well, Marquette. As News Director for TV6, Andrew’s efforts bring our region’s most meaningful stories to your home, your car’s radio, your news application on your phone, and wherever else he can get them seen. Without the rest of his equally passionate news team, however, none of these stories would be heard. Luckily, Andrew has something larger than just the region close to his heart; “I love what I do because I get to coach younger journalists and work with people in all different stages of their careers… there’s a lot of organizations that give so much to the people of Marquette, and I wanted to be a part of that. So that was a huge, huge draw for me that I could – through my job and other things – be able to be part of more organizations that do great things”.
“I think Marquette is full of people who do things and people who want to make the community better”, he went on, “people are always looking for new things to do and new ways to improve where they live but also just maintain the great things that we do have… that we’ve been lucky to have… I think it’s just that kind of a legacy – and that’s what people have come to expect… people are kind of protective of the identity [of Marquette] and we don’t want to lose that”. Wrapping up his thoughts on TV6’s critical role in the local community, Andrew had this to say – “I think TV6 is incredibly unique in the ‘TV world’. We’re such a part of the community, we’re proud of that; we show off the best things happening in our community, we want to make our community a better place… we have to hold people accountable and report things that you maybe don’t want to hear,” he made sure to impart, stressing the fundamental importance of truth-seeking throughout their ongoing work, but also making sure to add they’re doing whatever they can to uplift our region’s continued story. “We’re looking for the best things so that, again, we can showcase the great things happening in Marquette, Marquette County, and in the whole Upper Peninsula – and I think the future for us is strong.”
Through his work, Andrew LaCombe is undeniably Making it Marquette. He’s a storyteller, through and through – but he represents something larger than just his role at TV6. Through his mentorships, his teachings, his volunteering, and even through his music… Andrew isn’t just telling Marquette’s story, he’s a part of it as well. It may be a bit odd to think of your local news team existing anywhere other than inside of the screens on your devices, but trust us – if they’re anything like Andrew, they’re out there in our communities and they’re making a truly meaningful impact every single day.
Andrew LaCombe is Making his story Marquette,
So, what’s yours?