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Donor Spotlight: Tim and Sally Petersen

During this most uncommon season, UMS has been especially grateful for our donors and community partners’ continued support of and belief in our mission. Thanks to their generosity, we have been able to continue to invest in artists and their work, widen the impact of the arts by making our digital offerings free to everyone and explore new ways of delivering uncommon and engaging experiences with artists. Although we are not able to share and celebrate these stories of support in person, we are excited to unveil this Donor Spotlight blog to recognize these important contributions as well as offer a nostalgic look back on some fond UMS memories.


Tim and Sally Petersen backstage with Tim’s mother and Yo-Yo Ma.

Tim and Sally Petersen backstage with Tim’s mother and Yo-Yo Ma.

This week, we recognize Tim and Sally Petersen, long-time supporters of the Arts and UMS. Tim has been on the UMS board since 2013 and became Board Chair in 2019. Tim and Sally have been generous supporters of our more adventurous programming and most recently sponsored our production of Some Old Black Man. In his interview, Tim discusses an interesting first year as Board Chair and why he sees the importance of supporting and creating art during these challenging times.

 

Tell us a little about your background with the arts: Musical talents? First performing arts experience? Did you grow up with the arts or come to them as an adult?

While I was fortunate to be exposed to the arts as a child (and was not a bad piano player!), it was not an overriding element of my childhood – I was busy playing every sport I could!  At the same time, I had enough exposure so that there were no barriers to becoming much more engaged as an adult.  One of the things we’ve done right as parents was to expose our two kids as well – through participation as well as travel tied to artistic experiences.

 

When and how were you inspired to first become involved with UMS?

While Sally and I had occasionally attended UMS performances since moving to Ann Arbor in 1996, we became much more engaged when I was asked to join the board in 2013. I joined the board for three reasons – (1) the overall reputation and excellence of the organization was an obvious draw, (2) I thought I could contribute in a way that was additive rather than redundant, and (3) a bit selfishly, I was interested in the “arts education” I would receive through my involvement.

 

Please share your favorite UMS performance or memory?

We have jumped in with both feet over the past decade, and really sampled all that UMS has to offer, which in turn has led to many memorable experiences. Answering the question directly is not difficult, however, as one moment really stands out: the fall 2014 performance of Kiss and Cry. I’m not sure I will even try to explain it, other than to call it experimental theatre that hits all the right notes – entertaining, enthralling, and thought-provoking. A shout out to Michael Kondziolka for cajoling me to attend! Experimental theatre has enriched our lives and has become a focus of our giving to UMS.

 

UMS’s motto is “Be Present,” but during these times we hope our community “Stays Present” until we can safely return to our normal programming.  How are you Staying Present with the arts?

UMS has done a great job ‘pushing the envelope’ in terms of its digital programming – the production value of the December 2020 Wynton Marsalis holiday concert is one good example. Really beautifully set and recorded, a far different experience than simply watching a ‘recorded concert.’ We have also had the opportunity to visit the incredible modern art museum (MassMoca) near our place in Western Massachusetts on a couple of occasions. The spaces are so large that it can be safely experienced during the pandemic and is another way we have “stayed present” with the Arts.

 

From opening the season with a sold-out live orchestra performance of Amadeus to an unforeseen early end to the season, this must have been an interesting first year as Board Chair for UMS. As Board Chair, what has been your main takeaway in terms of continuing to support and show up for the arts in our community during this moment?

It has been extremely gratifying to see the intensity and consistency of support for UMS during these incredibly difficult times. All of our constituencies – patrons, donors, artists – have remained active by continuing to participate in digital programming, donating, and enthusiastically working with us in completely new and different ways. Even more gratifying has been to see the UMS staff, under Matthew’s leadership, step up in such impressive ways during a period of time that has placed us all under such enormous stress. I cannot thank the UMS team enough.

 

You and your wife, Sally, were one of the first sponsors to step up and support our Digital Artist Residencies, specifically our production of Some Old Black Man with Wendell Pierce. What was it about this project that inspired you to make such a generous gift to help launch this endeavor for UMS?

It was a combination of a couple of factors. First, a deep appreciation for the excellence and breadth of Wendell’s work through the years combined with his genuine enthusiasm for working with UMS in general and on this project in particular. (Am I an unabashed fan of The Wire in general and “Bunk” in particular? That would be Yes!) Second, from being close to UMS’s careful planning, I knew that this project could serve as a model for executing creative work in these incredibly challenging times. In other words, it would not just be about the work itself but how similar productions could be created safely.

Post-Premiere Discussion with the SOBM Cast & Creative Team

After the January 15, 2021 premiere screening of Some Old Black Man, UMS’s Mark Jacobson hosted a live conversation with the cast and creative team: actors Wendell Pierce and Charlie Robinson, playwright James Anthony Tyler, director Joe Cacaci, and first assistant director Tiffany Robinson.

Safety First: The Making of ‘Some Old Black Man’

As part of his UMS Digital Artist Residency, actor Wendell Pierce sought a way to safely produce theater live theater in 2020. This was no easy task. Against a backdrop of the pandemic, social unrest, and a turbulent election, the production faced many roadblocks along the way.

Some Old Black Man

From creating a safety plan, to discovering a positive COVID test, to filming at The Jam Handy in Detroit, this is the story of UMS’s production of Some Old Black Man.


Beginnings

Wendell Pierce performing Wynton Marsalis's piece "The Ever Fonky Lowdown" in Chautauqua, NY in August 2019

Wendell Pierce performing Wynton Marsalis’s piece The Ever Fonky Lowdown in Chautauqua, NY in August 2019

Wendell Pierce’s relationship with UMS began in August 2019 when he met UMS President Matthew VanBesien and Senior Programming Manager Mark Jacobson in Chautauqua, NY. The three were connected by Wynton Marsalis following rehearsals of Marsalis’s work The Ever Fonky Lowdown, which Pierce narrated. They quickly hit it off, spending time together that week. It was in this informal setting that conversations first began about UMS collaborating with Pierce.

These conversations continued when VanBesien attended a night of Pierce’s run of Death of a Salesman on the West End in London (Pierce was nominated for an Olivier Award for his portrayal of Willy Loman). The two caught up backstage and reaffirmed their desires of working together.

The Pandemic Begins

In the early months of the pandemic, UMS began to envision its Digital Artist Residency program. The program sought artists who were eager to adapt in order to continue to create in this difficult time. Specifically, the program aimed to create projects for the digital frame. VanBesien and Pierce reconnected with the desire of producing a piece of theater for digital audiences.

In discussions about what play to eventually produce, Wendell immediately and enthusiastically suggested Some Old Black Man by James Anthony Tyler. Wendell was involved with the play’s development at the Berkshire Playwrights Lab in 2017 and its off-Broadway premiere at the 59E59 Theaters in 2018. The play was supposed to open for another run in New York in June 2020, but that had to be canceled due to the pandemic.

James Anthony Tyler, playwright of 'Some Old Black Man'

James Anthony Tyler, playwright of Some Old Black Man

Pierce saw embarking on a work such as this as central in his role as an artist. “Art is the place where we collectively come together, reflect on who we are, where we’ve been, where we hope to go. We reflect on what our strengths are, what our weaknesses are. We debate, challenge our ideas amongst each other, decide what our values are, and then go out and implement them in our lives. That’s the role of art…Just because we’re in a pandemic, we should not give up that pursuit.”

Some Old Black Man explores the personal trauma of a family’s history, as father and son try to rectify past hurts enabled in a racist world that has damaged their personal relationship. “I thought it was the perfect play to do,” Pierce noted. “It is timely for what’s happening in the country and the discussions we’re having right now.”

But from the beginning of this project, one question was central: how do you produce theater safely during COVID? However, instead of considering this as a barrier, Pierce and UMS considered it an opportunity. It became clear that the ambitious project could be “exemplary for a public health case study of how to produce during a pandemic” while at the same time, provide audiences with an artistic experience even though it is “isolated away from the theater.”

The Quarantine Process

One of Wendell and UMS’s main desires was to keep the collaborative artistic process in place while following strict health and safety guidelines. With guidance from U-M public health officials, UMS Assistant Production Manager Alex Gay developed a safety plan that was ultimately approved by SAG-AFTRA (the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, a union overseeing filmed production work). UMS brought together a creative team including Pierce, actor Charlie Robinson, director Joe Cacaci, playwright James Anthony Tyler, and stage manager Tiffany Robinson to quarantine, reside, and rehearse together in a home on the west side of Ann Arbor. Special considerations were made to accommodate the group for everything from meal delivery to exercise equipment to ground transportation.

In order to convene safely, all members of the creative team were sent a pre-travel, at-home COVID test, requiring a negative test result before arriving in Ann Arbor. Once in Ann Arbor, UMS arranged for the creative team to be tested by a local Ann Arbor lab, LynxDx, Inc., one of the few labs in the country that employed a “gold-standard” PCR saliva test. The team was to be tested daily for the first week and then 3 times a week for the rest of the production.

The "Quaranteam" – Wendell Pierce, Tiffany Robinson, James Anthony Tyler, Joe Cacaci, and Charlie Robinson

The “Quaranteam” – (top row) Wendell Pierce, Tiffany Robinson, and James Anthony Tyler, (bottom row) Joe Cacaci and Charlie Robinson

The Positive Test

On the morning of Tuesday, October 20, just days after the creative team moved into their quarantine housing, the production faced unfortunate news – Joe Cacaci, the play’s director, tested positive for COVID-19. The positive test presented a challenge for UMS and the creative team; however, they were well-prepared for just this type of situation.

As part of the safety process required by the SAG-AFTRA, UMS had already developed a strict protocol in the event of a positive test. Immediately, the entire creative team was notified, and by mid-morning, UMS Artist Services Manager Anne Grove had made arrangements for Joe to be transported to isolation housing.

In these moments, it was not clear whether the production would be able to continue. There were hesitations from both UMS and the creative team about continuing. As Mark Jacobson noted, “There was a lot of concern and fear that everyone in the house was going to get COVID.”

In any event, safety guidelines prevented any team members from being immediately sent home regardless of the status of the project – it was important to keep any cases contained, rather than spreading them further – a unanimous decision was reached to continue rehearsals remotely and distanced, even within the quarantine environment while further testing and monitoring were conducted. The period of daily testing was expanded to another 14 days.

In the end, the regime of mask-wearing and social distancing in place before and after the positive test paid off. No other individuals tested positive. Thankfully, Cacaci remained only mildly symptomatic. He had virtual visits with a physician through U-M’s University Health Services, allowing him to appropriately monitor symptoms.

It is clear that the strict safety plan developed in advance saved the project from what could have ultimately led to its collapse.

Rehearsals

Wendell Pierce, Charlie Robinson, Joe Cacaci, and Tfinnay Robinson rehearsing masked at the Jam Handy in Detroit

Wendell Pierce, Charlie Robinson, Joe Cacaci, and Tiffany Robinson rehearsing while masked at The Jam Handy in Detroit

Joe’s isolation, however, forced the team to completely revamp their rehearsal plans. A testament to the resilience of the entire team, all rehearsal work transitioned to Zoom. Over the next two and a half weeks, they rehearsed with Joe remotely. At times all of the team called-in from separate rooms in the same house. Later on in the process, they had distanced staging rehearsals in the house, allowing Joe to direct the unfolding work through two cameras that James Anthony Tyler periodically moved upon request.

This certainly was not the preferred way of rehearsing, but, nevertheless, the team stayed on schedule. They brought the production to The Jam Handy in Detroit on November 9 for their first full in-person rehearsals with Joe.

Joe noted, “One of my happiest days was when I walked into this space and saw everybody in person, and we got to do what we really do.”

By this time, a full set had been designed and constructed by Scenic and Lighting Designer Justin Lang (watch a behind-the-scenes tour of the set). This, alone, was a difficult process requiring testing, masking, distancing, and more for all of the IATSE Local 395 members who participated in building the set. It was then transported to Detroit and assembled in the Jam Handy with assistance from members of IATSE Local 38, who worked on the rest of the production on set.

Filming

Wendell Pierce and Charlie Robinson on set

Wendell Pierce and Charlie Robinson on set for filming

Filming the production took place over three days from November 11-13. Present at the filming were the two actors, Wendell Pierce and Charlie Robinson, director Joe Cacaci, playwright James Anthony Tyler, stage manager Tiffany Robinson, UMS’s Rochelle Clark (who assisted with stage management), and a crew of essential production staff who oversaw the filming and set. HMS Media, a company out of Chicago that has filmed many theatrical performances at Lyric Opera of Chicago and Steppenwolf, among others, worked closely with director Joe Cacaci to capture several takes of the entire play, always focused throughout the editing and post-production process on making sure that it felt like a live theater experience.

Convening this group presented new safety challenges to overcome. Every individual who came on set for any reason had to have a negative test before arriving and was required to be tested three times a week. By the end of the project, over 250 tests were run.

In addition, critical safety measures were implemented to protect the actors while in front of the camera unmasked. Two zones, with one including the stage, were set up in the Jam Handy. Only the actors were allowed in the stage zone while they were unmasked for filming. UMS employed COVID-19 Supervisors to assist in oversight of the set to ensure that all protocols were followed.

Reflections

After a difficult production process, being able to complete the project and showcase the incredible work of both actors and the many people who helped to bring it about was a triumph for the team and everyone at UMS. Wendell Pierce felt confident that the production would provide “an answer to these difficult times. I believe this special experiment and experience will be an answer to performance during a pandemic, and it also shows UMS demonstrating a legacy of vanguard performances and the importance of artists to our community as a whole.”

UMS President Matthew VanBesien also noted how excited he was for the premiere of the production. “Some Old Black Man resonates with both social justice themes and with intergenerational conflict, making it a very fitting title for our times when the reality of more togetherness also unveils some of the tensions underlying even the closest of relationships. We are extraordinarily proud and humbled to present theater once again — albeit without in-person audiences and by using the digital frame.”


Sign Up

Sign up for updates about the special digital screening of Some Old Black Man on Friday, January 15, 2021, followed by a live talkback with the artists.

Donor Spotlight: Karen Chapell, Retirement Income Solutions

During this most uncommon season, UMS has been especially grateful for our donors and community partners’ continued support of and belief in our mission. Thanks to their generosity, we have been able to continue to invest in artists and their work, widen the impact of the arts by making our digital offerings free to everyone and explore new ways of delivering uncommon and engaging experiences with artists. Although we are not able to share and celebrate these stories of support in person, we are excited to unveil this Donor Spotlight blog to recognize these important contributions as well as offer a nostalgic look back on some fond UMS memories.


Karen Chapell

Karen Chapell, Retirement Income Solutions Managing Partner

This week, we recognize Retirement Income Solutions (RIS), long-time supporters of UMS. For more than 15 years RIS has been a corporate sponsor of an annual UMS performance. In addition, RIS hosts its clients for a pre-performance reception and the performance they sponsor. We talked with Managing Partner, Karen Chapell, to learn more about RIS’s history with UMS, and Karen’s own background with the arts.

 

Tell us a little about your background with the arts: Musical talents? First performing arts experience? Did you grow up with the arts or come to them as an adult?

Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, we had to drive into the city to see “that one” special performance each year. My folks enjoyed taking us to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Nutcracker performance was an annual tradition. I was so taken aback when I arrived in Ann Arbor as a college student because I realized that performances that were running in Chicago were actually coming to Ann Arbor. I was struck by how easily I could obtain a ticket — and for a discounted rate!

 

retirement income solutions logoWhen and how did Retirement Income Solutions first become involved with UMS?

Retirement Income Solutions has partnered with UMS as a Corporate Sponsor for over 15 years. Larry Hastie and Griff McDonald, the firm’s Founding Partners, recognized the importance of supporting the arts and making it a philanthropic goal of the company, as well as a venue to engage with our clients, as many have become season ticket holders.

 

Please share your favorite UMS performance or memory?

Wynton Marsalis met my colleague’s 10-year-old nephew, who also played the trumpet, after a Christmas performance a few years ago. They began visiting backstage and discussed how to improve his embouchure. Wynton then handed this young boy his cell phone number and offered to facetime him so that Wynton could assess his progress!

 

UMS’s motto is “Be Present,” but during these times we hope our community “Stays Present” until we can safely return to our normal programming.  How are you Staying Present with the arts?

Staying in touch virtually, I believe, has been an unexpected benefit during this time. Those who are otherwise unable to attend a concert may find that this is a way to connect even though they have not had an opportunity to do so in the past. We need to remember that this will not be the case forever. But for now, taking advantage of a virtual concert offering has been refreshing entertainment.

 

RIS has been a longtime corporate donor to UMS. What has UMS meant to RIS and why is supporting the arts such an important component of RIS’s corporate philanthropy?

UMS is an incredible gift in our backyard. Having access to world-renowned artists, performances, and student clinics has been a key to this institution’s success and makes them a stand-out in our university community. Retirement Income Solutions recognizes that the arts may be one of the first places budgets are cut during this unprecedented time. We have committed to maintaining our level of support across the arts as we recognize the impact this institution has on our community, its families, and most importantly, for our students.

January & February Digital Events

All of our digital presentations are free-of-charge to audiences everywhere, and we hope that you will share them with friends and family near and far. Please join us for these upcoming programs, and sign up to receive email notifications of new presentations and live streams.


Swing University
Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Swing University

Four-session course on Wednesdays, Jan 6 – 27 (currently waitlisted)

This January, UMS will join forces with Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) to offer Swing University: Jazz as a Tool for Liberation for the Michigan community. This four-session online course invites participants to explore jazz through a social justice lens and understand its historic role as a liberation tool in the United States.


Sheku and Isata Kanneh-MasonSheku Kanneh-Mason & Isata Kanneh-Mason

Limited availability! Fri-Sun Jan 8-10

A reprise of Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason’s UMS Digital Presentation, including a new bonus feature, House of Music: Raising the Kanneh-Masons. Helga Davis Interviews Stuart and Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason, parents of Sheku and Isata, about raising their family of seven musicians, issues of race within classical music, and more.

This Digital Arts Adventure is brought to you in part by

UMCU Arts Adventures
Patron Sponsor: Braylon Edwards


Some Old Black Man
Some Old Black Man

Launch Party: Fri Jan 15 at 7 pm; pre-show begins at 6:40 pm

For three weeks in Fall 2020, the creative team for this digital theater production quarantined in Ann Arbor, rehearsing and putting together this production under strict coronavirus safety protocols. In Some Old Black Man, Calvin Jones (Wendell Pierce), a hip, coolly intellectual African-American college professor moves his 82-year-old ailing but doggedly independent father, Donald Jones (Charlie Robinson), from Greenwald, Mississippi into his Harlem penthouse. Father-son strife escalates when their generational conflict is lensed through civil rights. Some Old Black Man frames racial prejudice with a bold probity rarely confronted and dramatized.

Lead Presenting Sponsor:
Tim and Sally Petersen
Michigan Engineering

Presenting Sponsor:

Newmarket LLC

Funded in part by:
UMS Sustaining Directors

Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan
mellon logo


Sphinx VirtuosiSphinx Virtuosi Digital Presentation: This is America

Fri Jan 29 – Mon Feb 8

The Sphinx Virtuosi draws inspiration from the most promising voices of today, seeking to lift the many voices within our communities. This program includes works by Michael Abels, a versatile composer of both cinema scores and symphonies; Jessie Montgomery, whose Source Code redefines the classical music canon; and a new work by Xavier Foley. These works, both archival and newly recorded, lift the voices of black and brown communities through the lens of the Sphinx Virtuosi, composed of black and brown musicians.

Exclusive Presenting Sponsor: Helmet F. and Candice J. Stern Endowment Fund


Cleo Parker RobinsonCleo Parker Robinson In Conversation

Tue Feb 10 at 5:30 pm

Choreographer, dance pioneer and visionary Cleo Parker Robinson joins her friend Neil Barclay, President and CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum, for a wide-ranging conversation about Black identity in dance. UMS is partnering with the Wright Museum and the International Association of Blacks in Dance to host this discussion. This event is part of Cleo Parker Robinson’s Digital Artist Residency with UMS.

Lead Presenting Sponsor: Linh and Dug Song

Funded in part by:
UMS Sustaining Directors

Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan


James Ehnes
James Ehnes, violin and Orion Weiss, piano

Sun Feb 14 – Wed Feb 24

Two of the most sought-after recitalists on the international stage join forces in this special concert, filmed from James Ehnes’s home specifically for UMS audiences.

Presenting Sponsors: Gil Omenn and Martha Darling

Patron Sponsor: Joel Howell and Linda Samuelson

Set Tour of ‘Some Old Black Man’

Scenic designer Justin Lang gives a brief tour of the Some Old Black Man set in Detroit’s Jam Handy. For three weeks in Fall 2020, the creative team for this digital theater production quarantined in Ann Arbor, rehearsing and putting together this production under strict coronavirus safety protocols.

Sign Up

Sign up for updates about the digital premiere of Some Old Black Man on Friday, January 15, 2021, followed by a live talkback with the artists.

Joyce DiDonato Sings “Silent Night”

“My hope is that in silence, we can find peace. And in that peace, we might be able to ignite some light and hope. Wishing you a deep sense of peace as we go into the New Year.” —JoyceDiDonato

Enjoy this very special arrangement of “Silent Night” performed by Joyce DiDonato and Àlex Garrobé. Joyce’s #SingForToday series is co-produced by UMS and Princeton University Concerts.

Producing Theater in a Pandemic

As part of his UMS Digital Artist Residency, actor Wendell Pierce sought a way to safely produce theater in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Enjoy a brief, behind-the-scenes look into our production of James Anthony Tyler’s Some Old Black Man, starring Wendell Pierce and Charlie Robinson.

Sign Up

Sign up for updates about the digital premiere of Some Old Black Man on Friday, January 15, 2021, followed by a live talkback with the artists.

Donor Spotlight: Joel Howell and Linda Samuelson

During this most uncommon season, UMS has been especially grateful for our donors and community partners’ continued support of and belief in our mission. Thanks to their generosity, we have been able to continue to invest in artists and their work, widen the impact of the arts by making our digital offerings free to everyone and explore new ways of delivering uncommon and engaging experiences with artists. Although we are not able to share and celebrate these stories of support in person, we are excited to unveil this Donor Spotlight blog to recognize these important contributions as well as offer a nostalgic look back on some fond UMS memories.


Joel Howell and Linda Samuelson

Joel Howell and Linda Samuelson

This week, we recognize Joel Howell and Linda Samuelson. Joel and Linda have been involved with UMS since the early 1980s. Linda and Joel have each loved the performing arts for a long time. Joel is a former UMS Board Member and was a member of the Development and Program Committee. Joel continues to serve as a Sustaining Director. Joel was instrumental in establishing the ongoing Medical Arts Program, a partnership between UMS, the health system, and other arts organizations to engage medical students and house officers with the arts. Joel and Linda have attended many UMS events over the years, and they are generous performance sponsors.

 

Tell us a little about your background with the arts: Musical talents? First performing arts experience? Did you grow up with the arts or come to them as an adult?

LINDA: When we first got married, we lived in Chicago, where we were enamored of the Lyric Opera and the Chicago Symphony. Then Joel moved to Philadelphia, home to a distinguished orchestra and only an hour from the many wonders of New York City.

In 1983, we found ourselves looking for jobs, trying to find two positions in the same city. Fortunately, we were both offered wonderful opportunities at an excellent university. But the university was located not in a large metropolitan area, but in a small, Midwestern college town. We loved the jobs but were concerned that taking those jobs would mean that we would have to give up being able to experience top-tier performing arts.

And then we heard about UMS. We looked over recent programs and soon realized that one could live in Ann Arbor and continue to experience wonderful arts. Thus, our decision to move to the University of Michigan was driven in part by the existence of UMS.

 

When and how did you first become involved with UMS?

LINDA: As soon as we moved to Ann Arbor we started going to UMS performances. We especially enjoy the subscription series, which often led us to enjoy performances that we would not otherwise attend, often by relatively new composers and writers.

For about the past decade Joel has directed the Medical Arts Program, which was created jointly between UMS and the Medical School, and continues to offer medical students and residents the opportunity to improve their skills as a physician through engagement with the arts.

 

Please share your favorite UMS performance or memory.

JOEL: This one is hard. For me, it came at the end of András Schiff’s amazing performance of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas. At the very end of that journey, in the sublime silence that followed the mystical end of opus 111, I will always remember experiencing the soundless space of Hill Auditorium for a few seconds as the audience started to process what they had heard and felt. This was one of those incredible, life-sustaining moments that can only come from a live performance.

LINDA: It’s the surprises that I most enjoy. For example, after Cecelia Bartoli canceled a highly anticipated performance, I loved hearing, instead, the amazing concert performance by Ewa Podleś, who has since become one of my favorite artists.

 

What about UMS inspired you to become a donor to — and volunteer with — UMS?

BOTH: UMS is one of the organizations that makes Ann Arbor and the surrounding area such a wonderful place to live. We are fortunate enough to be able to offer support, which we do in the belief that UMS is valuable for all members of the community.

 

UMS’s motto is “Be Present,” but during these times we hope our community “Stays Present” until we can safely return to our normal programming.  How are you Staying Present with the arts?

JOEL: We are very excited about the upcoming digital artist residencies, and especially the planned interactions between (virtually) visiting artists and medical students. The Paul Taylor celebration was amazing!

 

UMS: As a former Board Member, can you take a moment to reflect on how UMS has changed over the years and the value you think it brings to the community and university?

JOEL: UMS has become much broader, much bolder, more edgy, more willing to push the margins. Yes, it’s wonderful to hear the Berlin Philharmonic play Brahms symphonies, and we hope to do so again. But to hear Einstein on the Beach is an unexpected treat. The diversity of artists has increased. The outreach to schoolchildren is amazing. This is all due to the superb leadership and staff who have guided UMS through the years.

And now, as we wind our way down an uncertain path, it seems obvious that the world at the end of the path will not look the same as before the pandemic. Knowing about the sort of innovation and insight that the people who run UMS have displayed over the past few decades gives us confidence. It makes us believe that, although just what it will look like is unclear, UMS will continue to be a leader for the community and a source of pride, inspiration, and enjoyment for all of us.

 

If you had to describe UMS to someone new to Ann Arbor in two-three sentences, what would you say?

BOTH: UMS brings to our community outstanding performers and creative arts events. Go enjoy something familiar that you know you will love. Go experience something totally new and surprising. Get to know about the many opportunities to expand your horizons. And you will realize how lucky we are to have UMS to enhance our lives.

Wendell Pierce on the Role of Art

 

Actor and UMS Digital Residency Artist Wendell Pierce discusses the role of art in our lives — particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. This interview was filmed between rehearsals of Some Old Black Man, UMS’s upcoming digital theater work that was produced under strict coronavirus safety protocols.

Your investment in what we do at UMS is a powerful endorsement of the value of the performing arts and their ability to bring communities together.

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