Musical talent runs through the veins of Harbor City International School graduate Emanuel Eisele.

"In my German family, there are a bunch of classically trained musicians. So I grew up around that group of people, so I grew up always knowing what a key was or what a bass clef was," Eisele said. "Then when I came from Germany here to the United States, it was like an explosion of all kinds of different music and I thought, oh there's not just orchestras and chamber ensembles."

Eisele was born in Germany to a German father and an American mother. He spent the first 11 years of his life there before his family moved to the U.S. Once stateside, Eisele said the many different types of music inspired and amazed him.

"When I was in fourth grade, I asked my mom if she could buy me an instrument. She got me a violin and I did that for four years," Eisele said. "Then I came to the states here and thought this might not be exactly for me."

For his 12th birthday, Eisele got a guitar and has been working to perfect his skills ever since.

"Even when I'm messing up and trying to learn something and I just can't get it right, I'm still enjoying every second of it. It just feels like an extension to me at this point, like an extra arm," he said. "When I'm holding it and playing it or I'm learning something or playing something for the billionth time, it just feels right."

Eisele joined the jazz band at school during his freshman year and his first instructor, Darin Bergsven, was a big influence on him.

"All my life of playing guitar my family would always say, 'Oh you're so talented' and stuff like that to encourage me. This was the first time in my life where someone would stop me in the middle of playing and say 'that was bad, try again,'" Eisele said. "It kind of sounded mean at the time but that's what you need. You really need to hear someone say this is bad and you need to practice. He wasn't too harsh but he really kicked me into shape and he taught me a bunch of lessons that I will take with me for the rest of my life."

Bergsven said Eisele is a hard worker, isn't deterred by a challenge and doesn't back down when work gets difficult.

"Manny was always excited to take on any challenge I threw at him, whether it was a difficult passage of music to read, a complicated technique or chord voicing, or a last minute request to learn and perform Brian May's guitar solo on Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" at a choir concert," Bergsven said.

Harbor City senior Emanuel Eisele plans to take a gap year after graduation. Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com
Harbor City senior Emanuel Eisele plans to take a gap year after graduation. Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com

He also said Eisele is a strong leader and is able to get his team working together toward a common goal.

"He recognizes the strengths of the musicians around him and finds ways to make sure everyone is playing to their strengths," Bergsven said.

After graduating Saturday, Eisele said he plans to pursue music as a career but isn't quite sure yet what that would look like.

"After graduation, I'm going to take one gap year," he said. "I'm going to give myself some time to figure out what I really want to do as a career and maybe take one or two classes in the meantime and kind of dip my toes in the water."

Eisele said his time at Harbor City has been great and he has enjoyed being in the "hustle and bustle" of downtown and plans to continue enjoying it as he recently received a permit from the city to play during the summer. Going to school downtown was a huge change from being at Marshall School where he attended prior to Harbor City.

"In eighth grade, I went up to Marshall School and I was really struggling with it. I didn't have anything above a D in any of my classes," Eisele said. "The counselor there told me just didn't think it was a good fit for me and said she had heard of this really good school called Harbor City in downtown and thought I would flourish more there."

Eisele said he took that advice and never looked back.

This is the second of a series of stories highlighting local graduates from the Twin Ports area. To read the first story about a Denfeld graduate, click here.