Her artistry brings mystery and soul pondering in her music, her photographs and creative vision capture nature onto postcards. Inga Mikulene is recognized at LCC International University as the Program Coordinator from the Center for International Education. She is also the artist and musician known as “Ingaja” and overall, is a very soulful human being.
Can you briefly tell me about yourself, what is your story, who is Inga?
I was born and grew up in Klaipeda, but later left to study abroad. Eventually, I came back here to my hometown and settled. Professionally, I work as a Program Coordinator at the Center for International Education (CIE) here at LCC International University. I work with incoming and outgoing students, overseeing the student exchange programs. At the same time, personally, I am a musician and artist.
You’re a multiplatform artist and creative ― a musician, photography enthusiast, and you create postcards. Do you feel a connection between all of your creative work in some way?
Music involves a bigger part of my life; photography is always walking alongside because I am very passionate about visuals; and the postcards actually just appeared last year. I discovered postcards when traveling, getting different kinds of postcards from art galleries or local artists. Then this idea appeared, maybe I should try to make some postcards with my own photographs and that is how this whole idea evolved. I had a more quiet time with my music and decided not to rush playing, kind of take it at a slower pace. I was less involved with my music than before, and I feel like the creativity kind of piled up in me, wanting to be let out in a different format, which then came out as postcards.
What are the dominant themes in your artistry? Do you have any topics that you are specifically focusing on?
My artistry mostly covers the journey of a person and discovering their inner world. It focuses a lot on humility, openness to yourself and to others, being honest. Initially, the themes relate to me, but I think the themes that I incorporate in my lyrics and music in general are applicable to a broader audience. I believe that people, by joining my journey, can find a piece of themselves there. It's like a reflection of the feelings that we go through daily.
How did you start singing?
I was connected with music from an early age. I went to music school and graduated, trained in classical guitar. Music is always by my side, but I would say about six years ago, singing more professionally when I started as solo artist, Ingaja. Throughout my life, I was always performing either with the band or solo. But it has been a long journey, and only recently I realized I had to turn this switch in my head. I had to go through some inner battles to accept that there is no point of hiding inside this passion I have. I need to nurture it and believe in myself a little more. Having a very strong relationship with my inner critic always held me back for a lot of years. I have no explanation for this inner energy that pushes me to perform, but every time I get on stage, it is both satisfying and nerve-wracking at the same time and it keeps me going every time.
What does singing mean to you?
Singing is definitely my escape and therapy tool. It always has been. It’s like letting my feelings out in song format. I am the kind of person that lets experiences pile up inside me, though I am quite resistant to that. What I do not normally say out loud in conversations, flows out in music. Music helps me cleanse the inside.
You released your new album recently. What inspired you for this album?
The name of the album is Reverie, which means a state of being pleasantly lost. When I create music, I am usually in that state of being pleasantly lost and I wanted to represent that in my album. When people listen to the album, they do feel like they are somewhere else, pleasantly lost in their thoughts and rethinking what they hear and where they are. At one point while making the album, I caught myself rushing too much. Rushing to create music, rushing the recording, and to share it with people. Being a result-oriented person, once you get it done, you let your art go and then it is like a desert. But then you feel the need to continue creating again. So I decided instead to enjoy the process, finding daily things that make me happy, enjoying the moment, being in it, and not rushing for any inspiration.
While listening to your music, there are some mystical aspects present. What hides behind that?
I am very much inspired by nature, by the sea, and waves. I always try to incorporate that into my music. I don't want to easily put everything on the plate for people. I leave some mystery to take their own message out of my message.
You are also into photography. What does photography mean to you?
Photography is capturing the beautiful moments of life. What I photograph is mostly outdoors, birds, waves, and the sea. Photography complements what I do visually along with my music. It is an extra tool that I can include with my music to express myself. I get lost in the moment, spend many hours gazing through the creative lens, finding an interesting angle and capturing the present moment.
Where does the artistic part of you come from?
No one in my family is a musician or very artsy. Since early childhood, I would listen to my parents' records and play an air guitar. Later, I found a guitar in my grandmother's attic and my journey to music school began. Seems like some kind of seed that grew in me.
How do you manage to find time for all that you do?
It is hard. The golden rule is to have balance. It sounds easy and logical, but putting it into practice is quite difficult. Something always suffers. I am committed at LCC full-time, while also trying to be more committed to my music. For me, what suffers the most are the relationships with people and family. I tend to choose time for music over my relationships, which is not a great thing, but I am open about it. Sometimes I get to the point where there's too much happening in my life, from managing my music to shooting the videos, and booking photoshoots. I have to constantly remind myself to slow down, maybe take a camera and take photos. Yoga helps me a lot, walking the dog, and going to the beach. These really help clear my head, and I come out as a fresh person.
How did you end up working here at LCC?
The first connection was Evening Language Institute (ELI) when I was fourteen. After high school, I went to the United Kingdom to study and after, decided to come back home. I wanted to use my English and be in an international environment. I came across LCC International University. Even though none of the open positions matched my personality, I gave it a go with an open mind, without any pre-judgement. I started in Student Financial Services and after a few years, moved to the Center for International Education and have been here for seven years now.
What are your responsibilities here at LCC?
I am responsible for incoming and outgoing students for the exchange programs. I handle application selection, looking for partners, and extending partnerships with other universities. I also work on the promotion side in terms of the programs that we offer. I mainly work with European and Asian countries. Within Europe I work with the Erasmus program and in Asia, with the International Exchange Program.
What do you like most about your job?
In my job, I enjoy seeing the changes in students from before they leave and then when they come back. Sometimes the difference is so visible, so apparent in the way they talk and the way they position themselves more confidently. When I can see this difference, it makes me feel that I am doing something right at my job.
What is your favorite thing about LCC?
My favorite thing at LCC is the acceptance that you can be accepted the way you are. Also LCC’s community and diversity, of course. This environment at LCC is not like in any other Lithuanian institution.
How would you describe yourself? What kind of person are you?
I would say I am always with a smile. It’s interesting because people usually start wondering how my music is seemingly dark and moody but I am smiling every day. I also would describe myself as loyal, and very responsible. I am also a perfectionist, which is a thin line between good and bad. I would like to think of myself as friendly.
What are your plans for the future?
The future? That is the question that stresses me out. When I hear the word “future” (not because of the current year and situation) in general it sounds so heavy, as if you should know what you should be doing or at least have it figured out by now. I am still figuring everything out about the future, what is my real path. I enjoy what I do now, but I do not know where I see myself in 20 years. My goal for this year is to focus more on the present. I am still figuring out who I am.
Blitz question time
Quick questions and short answers!
Text or call?
Morning or evening?
Coffee or tea?
Tea. Especially Green tea
Flowers or chocolate?
City or nature?
Social media or letters?
Books or movies?
Romantic or a realist?