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On the Road with UMS: Thanks for Your Support!

By day… the lunch room of building 18 at the NCRC (formerly Pfizer), is a tastefully appointed employee cafeteria.  Voluminous space defined at the far edges by industrial-grade moss green carpet, banks of uniformly gray shaded windows, crisp white walls reaching toward a canopy of exposed architecture.  The perfect environ to lunch with colleagues.

But by night!

When bus #2010 rolled in for On the Road with UMS last Saturday evening, 312 guests were embraced by a very different vibe.  Electric colors — magenta, tangerine, hot pink, lime, mango — filled the room.  Hot salsa beats, by Los Gatos, and syncopated rhythms, by Salvador Torres Mariachi Mexico 2000, claimed the airwaves.  Watermelon, kiwi and orange sangrias, spicy empanadas and tequila-laced popcorn, presented by Food Art, teased the palate. This wonderfully festive transformation was created by Decorations Chair Ruth Petit, Entertainment Chair Susan A. Fisher, Food Chair Janet Torno, Logistics Chair Francine Bomar, and their very talented committee members.  Thank you!

And, many thanks, too, to Sponsor Chairs Joe Grimley and Janet Callaway, and Table Host Chair Melanie Mandell for getting folks on the bus.  Invitations Chair Nancy Stanley and Catalogue Chair Sara Fink, and their volunteers, ensured that all guests on board had ticket, map and itinerary in hand to navigate the event.

And what an event!

Something for everyone.  The festivities began with a Wine Pull, a clever “win-win” opportunity for all.  Each guest who purchased a Wine-Pull ticket walked away with a bottle of wine, either equal or more valuable than the ticket price.  With 100% of the wines donated, then 100% of the proceeds benefit the UMS Education Programs.  Thank you, Agnes Moy Sarns and Lisa Psarouthakis, Wine-Pull Co-chairs, and to every Alumni and AC, Board and UMS staff member who donated wine.

A glorious array of beautifully packaged silent auction items, from Sabor do Brasil: A Bit of Everything Brazilian to a Caribbean Getaway Basket to the Kentucky Bourbon Basket, enticed the guests throughout the first half of the evening.  Kudos to Silent Auction Chair Melanie Mandell and the entire cast of UMS supporters.

At center stage, Live Auction Chair Fran Martin and her dedicated and amazingly resourceful committee assembled the list for the best live auction in town.  Tropical paradise vacations, a heel kicking chuck wagon party,  the ever popular Cabaret Dinner Night, getaways to great American cities,  good times in our town, Ann Arbor, cooking classes, film festivals, museum parties, fires station tours and more.  Muchas Gracias!

Ditto to our “traffic controllers,” UMS President Ken Fischer, our UMS Advisory Committee Liaison, Cindy Straub, the entire UMS Development Department and many other UMS staff who ensured that the evening flowed seamlessly from registration to checkout.

But most of all…

A giant-sized THANK YOU to Eileen Thacker and Melanie Mandell, Event Co-Chairs, who were both the driving force that fueled On The Road 2010 and the navigators that kept our sights on the real destination – raising funds to benefit the UMS Education Programs. OTR 2010 simply would not have happened without the dedication and commitment of these two extraordinary women throughout the past nine months. We, along with the over 25,000 students, teachers and community members who will benefit from the arts experiences UMS brings each year, extend our heartfelt appreciation.

When we think about UMS Education Programs, we tend to think first of the students, teachers and schools who benefit from our efforts to raise funds for these programs.  And, indeed they do.  Funds raised from On The Road have provided students from over 100 schools across southeastern Michigan with the opportunity to experience live performing arts.  However, members of our community, and that includes each of us, are also quite lucky to have access to the UMS Education Programs. Education is the hallmark of our community and puts Ann Arbor “on the map.”  We are very fortunate that UMS offers such an interesting array of lectures, Prelude dinners, workshops, panel discussions, film screening and interactive experiences specifically designed to accompany this season’s performances.

If you couldn’t attend On The Road with UMS, but would like to make a contribution to UMS Education Programs, click here.

Volunteer Spotlight: The UMS Advisory Committee

Please note: Up-to-date information about the UMS Advisory Committee can be found on

Here’s an impressive statistic: Members of the UMS Advisory Committee donated over 7,500 volunteer hours to UMS during the 2009/2010 Season.  That adds up to an equivalent of 3.5 full-time staff positions!

Who are these people who dedicate thousands of hours greeting schoolchildren at performances, visiting elementary and secondary schools to share information about the UMS Youth Performances and Education Programs, fostering alliances with the multicultural communities and arts organizations of southeastern Michigan?   How can you describe the volunteers who freely donate their time to create successful fundraising events, who recapture, record, and archive the organization’s “story” and who lend their professional expertise to ensure that the UMS Advisory Committee is the gold standard of volunteer organizations in Ann Arbor?

As I read through the brief biographies each Advisory Committee member wrote, I am taken by the collective breadth of talent in our organization.  In our incoming class alone, you’ll find realtors, lawyers, educators, executive directors, department managers, doctors, engineers, choreographers, automotive designers, nurses, small business owners, professional decorators, consultants, foreign service officers, actors … even a published poet!

We have members who have authored books, organized and produced music festivals, started businesses, parented families, sponsored radio programs, founded non-profit organizations, chaired major organizations and fundraising campaigns, staffed high-level University searches – even sung in the Choral Union.  No one sentence could possibly begin to encompass the myriad talents and resources our members possess.

This past spring, I had the opportunity to meet many of the new members, and, over the past three years, to develop valued friendships with many of the current and retiring members. A few common threads weave through many of their stories.

As children, many of them were enveloped in the arts by their family.  “My mother brought my two brothers and me to children-friendly concerts when we were small”, writes one member, “and to Choral Union series concerts when I was a teenager. My mother and I have been going to UMS events together ever since.”  “I have had an interest in the arts since I was a child,” notes another.  “Both my parents were musically-inclined and we had music in our home regularly.” “In my childhood, there was always music, dance, and theater to be found,” wrote a member who grew up in New York.   Another member grew up in England and writes that she “was constantly exposed to the arts:  attending plays and musicals at the local repertory theatre, concerts at the cathedral or the guildhall, the ballet in Bournemouth or London.”  “Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember,” shares another. “My own upbringing was deeply influenced by the fact that I was able to experience various cultures and art forms through UMS.”  “Every member of my family was engaged in music throughout our childhood and schooling.”  Another adds, “I grew up falling asleep to the classical music my mother played on the radio as she read at night.” One of my favorites, “My family sang in the car when we traveled.”

Many of our members grew up dedicating countless hours to music and dance lessons.  “I learned at an early age to appreciate form, balance and movement through my ballet, tap, and Hawaiian dance lessons.”  “As a child, I took dance for many years and saw every dance company that came to the Detroit area.” Several members mention music lessons.  “I started saxophone lessons as a second grader,” reflects one member.  “I was a professional cellist for ten years,” writes another. One member took piano and recorder lessons and was a member of a “small youth orchestra practicing in my family’s dining room.”   But musical talent is not a prerequisite. “I LOVE MUSIC!!  Every kind of music!  But I have no training or talent,” exclaims one member.  “My wife plays the piano,” shares another, and then jestingly adds, “and I play the stereo.”

Another thread is a genuine appreciation for being introduced to the arts through school programs.  “One highlight of my elementary education,” a new member reminisces, “was to attend the Denver Symphony sponsored by the Denver Public Schools … This was my introduction to the symphony and I loved the music.” Another reflects, “One of my fondest remembrances of grade school is being bussed into Cleveland to Severance Hall to hear the Cleveland Symphony.  It opened a whole amazing world to me, I will be forever grateful.”

Forever grateful. This truly typifies an Advisory Committee member.  Although our members have forged many different paths, a recurring theme in their life stories is a desire to give back to their community.  “I believe that I can serve this organization and at the same time renew my love for music and its importance to young people.  I would appreciate the opportunity to serve.”  Writes another, “My desire to join the UMS Advisory Committee combines a lifetime of love and support of the arts with my dedication to Ann Arbor.  Most important for me is to continue building the cultural legacy that will be left to my children and others.” Another insightfully voices, “…what gives my life meaning is ‘giving back’ to others … the UMS Advisory Committee  will allow me the opportunity to give back by participating in projects that engage diverse groups through education, collaboration, and the POWER OF MUSIC!”

Giving back to others. Appreciating the opportunity to serve.  Building a cultural legacy.  “I believe art—including music, dance, theatre and all art’s various interpretations—has the ability to transcend differences, be they socio-economic, racial, ethnic or otherwise, and allow us to communicate in a common language.”  “It is impossible for me to envision life without art, music, dance and theater,” summarizes one member.

Those thousands of hours of volunteer service to UMS?  I like to think of them as 7,500 “thank you” notes.

If you’d like more information about the UMS Advisory Committee and how to get involved contact Becki Spangler, Advisory Committee Membership Chair.