Marie Schumacher joined Young Audiences in July 2014 after years of work as an arts administrator and teaching musician in Oregon and the Bay Area. Her backgrounds in developmental psychology, music education, classroom teaching, and small business make her the perfect fit for the new role of Community Outreach Manager. Marie is also a practicing musician, founder of PDX Vox (a community a capella singing program), a former classroom teacher and teacher trainer, Mom to son Gavin, and world traveler with husband David.
I caught up with Marie earlier this week to hear about her plans and her past.
What brought you to Young Audiences, and what are you most excited to do in your first year? For a long time, I have wanted to work within an arts organization that builds bridges between the arts and other sectors. Young Audiences is a strong model in this way, in that it not only connects artists with schools, but it works with both teaching arts and educators to customize arts education programs so that many different types of goals can be achieved. I especially appreciate Young Audiences’ commitment to supporting teachers and teaching artists with professional development and coaching. I think it is a uniquely versatile resource to schools and teaching artists, and it continues to expand the ways in which it supports arts education in the region.
During my first year, I am most excited about visiting lots of schools and seeing how Young Audiences might support them in expanding their arts education programs. I think that the flexibility of the Young Audiences’ model can help all kinds of schools enhance its arts education program. It really can be tailored to a wide range of curriculum goals, teaching philosophies, and budgets.
What inspires you — artistically and personally? I think that my most moving experiences in the arts have been where art has helped people connect deeply with themselves or with one another. What continues to amaze me about the arts is how it opens people up and connects them. Some of the most honest conversations I have with people are following a rehearsal or a performance, because the experience has allowed us to feel more vulnerable and human.
As a practicing artist, how does your creative work inform your professional work? I’ve often thought about how my work a cappella singing has taught me many lessons as a professional. In fact, I wrote a blog about this not too long ago, for Portland Emerging Arts Leaders.
One concrete way that my creative work has informed my professional work is that I see so many projects as a matter of casting a play, or putting together a band. You want people with different strengths and talents on your team in order to create the most fruitful opportunities and the most effective results.
Beyond a cappella singing, I am also a songwriter, guitar player, and collage artist, and all of these experiences have developed my faith in the artistic process — that doing the work as a practice is its own reward. I am a very results-oriented person and I like deadlines, and yet, often my solutions flow in surprising ways by just sitting down and doing the work faithfully.
Can you describe your journey from educator to teaching artist? What surprised (or continues to surprise) you along the way? I have been a singer and musician since I was a kid, but I didn’t see the arts as a viable career path until I was in my 30s. I started out as a classroom teacher, and while I loved the work of teaching and learning in schools, I also felt a desire to make more time for artistic expression. After reading Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, I realized that there might be a path that combined my passions for music and teaching after all.
I moved from the Bay Area to Portland in 2000, and during that time, I was playing in a band, recording and performing regularly. After my shows, some people would come up and say that they liked my music. However, many more would come up and say, “I used to sing and now I don’t, and I really miss it.” I realized that there are so many people who long to bring music back into their lives. This is how PDX Vox came to be. I had directed an a cappella group in college and had a knack for writing vocal arrangements of popular rock songs. It seemed that a recreational a cappella program would fill the void for many singers who wanted a low-key way to make music and connect with other music lovers.
I think that the surprise factor for me in all of this is how the arts can be used to achieve so many different goals. Certainly people of all ages can learn and grow in numerous ways through the arts. Each art form challenges our brains and our hearts in its own way. In PDX Vox, I have seen my students build their skills and confidence as musicians. I have seen my students experience a sense of belonging in community. I have seen them take risks and develop their courage. I have seen them heal and find respite from illness and grief. I have seen them work with others in beautiful ways and make lasting friendships as a result. I know that the growth and support they have experienced by making music with others is something they bring into the rest of their lives as well.
What is one of your earliest art memories? In the third grade, our class made collage bottles for Mother’s Day. We brought in glass bottles, then we cut words out of magazines that described our mothers and glued them on, until the entire bottle was covered. Our teacher shellacked them, and I remember loving how my bottle looked so colorful and shiny. That was the beginning of my long relationship with collage, and it was probably the first artistic gift I made that really filled me with pride..