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Meet the Newest UMS Staff Members


Since the pandemic began just over a year ago, UMS staff has been extremely grateful for the countless Zoom contributions made by our added work-from-home colleagues. Today, on April 1, 2021, we thought it most fitting to introduce some of our newest team members to you.

Please note that due to their hectic schedules, we kindly request that you contact their personal assistants directly using our staff directory.

Achilles

Director of Digital Barketing

This digital dingo is a master of handshakes, high fives, high jumps, and generally being a good boy during Zoom calls. Those perky ears make him a great listener when assigned tasks and commands, except while in the presence of his one “Achilles’ heel”… squirrels.

Personal assistant: Eric Woodhams, Director of Digital Media

 

Chachi

Assistant Meowanager of Ticket Services

Ensures all writing instruments have been properly chewed on, especially pencils. Expert purr monster. Professional napper.

Personal assistant: Anné Renforth, Ticket Services Assistant Manager

 

 

Chickenhawk

Hen in the Foxhouse Endowment Chief Risk Officer

This brown leghorn produces the biggest yolks you’ve ever seen. She has a high tolerance for risk and is most definitely an over-communicator. Always striving for efficiency, she lives by the tagline, “Last in, First Out.”

Personal assistant: Mary Roeder, Programming Manager

 

Chimichurri

Education and Community Engagement Pawgrams Intern

Chimichurri “Chimi” Alberto Perez-Mozumdar is a Ph.D. candidate in Treat Studies at the University of Michigan with over two months of experience as a cuteness consultant for UMS. His dissertation, “A Complete Guide to Stealing Mommy’s Headbands,” was awarded the Goodest Boi Academic Award in 2021. A proud Wolverine, Chimi is an undefeated tug-of-war champion. In his free time, he enjoys Zoom-bombing his parents’ meetings with loud squeaky toys and unsolicited kisses.

Personal Assistant: Christina Mozumdar, Education and Community Engagement Programs Manager

 

CoCo

Presidentastix and Chief Treats Officer

Angling for treats; hangdog looks; more angling for treats

Personal assistant: Matthew VanBesien, UMS President

 

 

Echo

Catmunications Specialist

Demands treats 24-hours a day. Is adept at interrupting Zoom meetings that bore them by demanding belly rubs (often on camera and usually by screaming). Regularly sends cryptic messages to colleagues when her human steps away to refill her coffee. The very best snuggler in all of the land.

Personal assistant: Rochelle Clark, Ticket Services Associate

 

Fern

Director of Pawtron Services

In addition to ensuring her human stays on track at work Fern specializes in reviewing web content, especially when there is an opportunity to chase that little arrow thingy around the screen. She is also expert at attention to detail, specifically her tail, which she has yet to catch.

Personal assistant: Christina Bellows, Director of Patron Services

 

Freddie and Lulu

Co-Directors of eduCATion and Canine Engagement

Freddie and Lulu have been an incredible addition to our team. They are experts at looking out the window at squirrels, sleeping on our heads, and fuzzifying our blankets and pillows. They are especially talented vocal meowcians (pun for musicians) as they love to show off their vocal talents especially in the early hours of the morning. Lastly they provide a sense of calmness to a stressful work environment as they zoom bomb our meetings.

Personal assistant: Terri Park, Associate Director of Education & Community Engagement

 

June

Vice President of Naps, Treats, and Belly Rubs

Responsible for chewing on absolutely everything, tail chasing, and playing games in the backyard. Other responsibilities as assigned.

Personal assistant: Cayenne Harris, Vice President of Education and Community Engagement

 

Levi

Pawtron Services Assistant

Levi’s passion for the arts along with his people skills make him an invaluable asset to UMS. He will go above and beyond to help out around the office by sitting on keyboards, chewing wires, and even deciding that the computer needs a restart. He is such a hard worker and so deeply committed to his position at UMS that he falls into a deep slumber after only 2 hours of work.

Personal assistant: Justine Sedky, Patron Services Assistant

Lilly-Anne

Front of Lawn Manager

Lilly Anne’s responsibilities include making sure unauthorized birds and chipmunks do not enter the lawn, catching any frisbees thrown and bringing them back to the house, and napping in the sun.

Personal assistant: Victoria Spain, Front of House Assistant Manager

 

Little May

Sr. Pawgramming Manager

Likes to sniff around the jazz and new music bins. Has her paw prints all over her pawgramming. Chases after many sounds.

Personal assistant: Mark Jacobson, Senior Programming Manager

 

Otis

Director of Happiness and Smiles

Otis enjoys bringing happiness and smiles to virtual meetings, but holds us accountable for outdoor exercise and indoor naps in the sunlight. He enjoys adult meetings more than virtual first-grade appearances. Otis looks forward to Michigan summers at the lake. Go Blue!

Personal assistant: Will Smith, Assistant Manager, Major Gifts

 

Padawan

Group Tails and Pawmotions Associate

Padawan spends the work day on Zoom calls and taking naps in the sun. Paddy attended Kojima University with a degree in Good Doggos, minoring in Jedi studies. She looks forward to giving you and your pets a group discount to shows!

Personal assistant: Bridjet Kojima, Group Sales and Promotions Associate

 

Piper

Director of Develickment

A real arfs lover, Piper has a talent for sniffing out like-minded suppawters and shepherding them into the fold. A talented funraiser, Piper excels at fetching needed resources and showing those donors her love as only an affectionate Aussiedoodle can.

Personal assistant: Susie Craig, Director of Development

Yvaine

Executive Director of Fur Distribution

Yvaine’s primary skill is appearing unannounced in every zoom call. When off camera, she fills her day by screaming for food, sleeping at least 16 hours a day, and getting her fur on literally every surface in the house. She yells at birds out the window and probably loves bonito flakes more than her moms.

Personal assistant: Maddy Wildman, Education and Community Engagement Programs Manager

 

Zealand

Senior Donor TREATment Specialist

Zealand joined the development staff a year ago to help make sure UMS donors are TREATed well. Her duties include sniffing around to make sure donors are well fed. She sometimes barks orders at others, but usually commands respect with simple tricks and rewards.

Personal assistant: Marnie Reid, Associate Director of Development, Major Gifts and Planned Giving

 

UMS Staff Playlist: Music for Spring

UMS Spring Playlist

UMS staff members contributed tracks for a playlist of their favorite music that reflects the optimism, warmth, and nature of Spring.

Listen on your preferred streaming service, and read about the inspiration behind some of our picks below:

Apple Music logo Spotify logo


“Lovely Day” by Bill Withers

Submitted by Cayenne Harris, VP, Education and Community Engagement

Bill Withers is one of my favorite artists, and this song makes me feel happy and hopeful every time I hear it.


“Весенние воды (Spring Waters)” by Sergei Rachmaninoff (performed by Ewa Podles)

Submitted by Michael Kondziolka, VP, Programming and Production

The closer you get to the Poles — North or South — the greater the feeling of ecstasy when Spring finally arrives. In other words, the harsher the Winter the more jubilant the Spring. Growing up in the Northernmost state in the continental US, I can relate to this idea. Rachmaninoff, a Russian, grew up in the harshest of winter climates, and he captures the over-the-top feelings of Spring — ice melting into streams, the first warmth of sun on the face, wanting to scream “Winter’s over!” I can relate to that.


“L’oiseau qui danse” by Tennyson

Submitted by Maddy Wildman, Education and Community Engagement Programs Manager

Birds who dance! I know spring has started in Ann Arbor when I can wake up and hear the birds out my window. By late May they’re screaming loud enough to wake me up but I love it!


“Take It Easy” by Archie James Cavanaugh

Submitted by Jessica Adamczyk, Executive Assistant to the President

How can you NOT dance to this? Even the toddler in my life bops along to it!
Background on the song.


“Kites Are Fun” by The Free Design

Submitted by Jake Gibson, Marketing and Communications Associate

From the first flute line, this song is youthful, bucolic, and warm. It brings you right back to the joy of childhood spring days. Where else would you rather be than in a field, with your friends, and far away from Mom and Dad (and Uncle Bill) who just don’t realize that “Kites Are Fun”?


“Prière aux oiseaux” by Barbara Pravi

Submitted by Eric Woodhams, Director of Digital Media

Modern-day chanteuse Barbara Pravi (and France’s 2021 Eurovision Song Contest competitor) released a surprise EP album on International Women’s Day this month. Each song is a tribute to nature, and this track, ‘Prière aux oiseaux’ (prayer to the birds) makes me want to sit on a park bench and soak in the sun, sights, and sounds.


“It Might As Well Be Spring [Live at Café Au Go-Go, 1964]” by The New Stan Getz Quartet (feat. Astrud Gilberto)

Submitted by Mark Jacobson, Senior Programming Manager

The lyrics always make me yearn for springtime; Astrud’s voice sounds like flowers blossoming.


“Late at Night” by The Iguanas

Submitted by Matthew VanBesien, President

It’s nearly spring, and I have no finer memories in my young adulthood than (many) late nights dancing at the old Cafe Brasil to these guys.


“Home (Is Where the Van Is)” by Limbeck

Submitted by Mary Roeder, Programming Manager

A s a high school student on the west side of Michigan and through my time as a U-M undergrad, I came of age during the golden era of emo/pop-punk in the late nineties/early aughts.  Once I got my driver’s license, I was bouncing around with friends to concerts nearly weekly in Grand Rapids and Detroit.  Limbeck was my favorite band at the time (and the creator of my favorite band t-shirt, which I still wear!), and their music instantly reminds me of warm weather and road trips to gigs.


“Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra

Submitted by Amanda Dempsey, Development Associate

After a long gray winter, this song has always been my favorite to play on that first warm Spring day with a clear, blue sky.


“Früling” (Spring)” by Richard Strauss (performed by Jessye Norman)

Submitted by Sara Billmann, VP, Marketing and Communications

One of my first UMS concerts was hearing Jessye perform Strauss’s Four Last Songs in Hill Auditorium during the May Festival of 1989. It was a truly unforgettable performance. Her magnificent voice enveloped the entire balcony, and when she finished the last note of the last song, the entire audience sat in stunned silence for a solid minute before erupting into applause and cheers. I still get goosebumps remembering it.


Carmina Burana, “Primo vere (Part 1)” by Carl Orff

Submitted by Scott Hanoian, Music Director and Conductor of the UMS Choral Union

Nothing says spring like a little Carmina Burana!


“I Hear A Symphony” by The Supremes

Submitted by Christina Bellows, Director, Patron Services

I tend to gravitate toward specific types of music depending on the season, and springtime is for Motown.


“Let Down” by Radiohead

Submitted by Tal Benatar, Patron Services Assistant

A great jam for a sunny or rainy April afternoon drive.


“Nightswimming” by  R.E.M.

Submitted by Marnie Reid, Associate Director of Development, Major Gifts and Planned Giving

This song speaks to me about breaking free and being young and spontaneous. After a long winter night, swimming is what I long for. And the song reminds me of my husband who died two years ago this week.


“What About It” by Rebecca HH Rosen

Submitted by Jacob Rogers, Patron Services Assistant

Rebecca is both a close friend of mine and a treasured collaborator – someone I’d play music with every day if I could. Something between the warming weather, the promise of this all coming to a close, and the joy of maybe making sounds together someday soon has had her music in my brain a lot these days. And, since I have the chance to, I thought I’d send a bit of that joy back out into the world.


“La Balanguera” by Maria del Mar Bonet

Submitted by Anne Grove, Artist Services Manager

My favorite version of this song is from an album that was recorded live in the Placa del Rei in Spain, RAXIA. The concert was to raise awareness about an old Mallorca garden that was under threat of destruction. I tend to play this album when I am spring cleaning. For dance lovers, you may know Maria del Mar Bonet’s music from many works by Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato.


“Julep” by Punch Brothers

Submitted by Rochelle Clark, Ticket Services Associate

This song always makes me think of slow spring/summer afternoons spent on my favorite porch swing. “Heaven’s a julep on the porch” – yes, indeed, it is.


“Dancing Queen” by Abba

Submitted by Anne Renforth, Ticket Services Assistant Manager

There’s such a sense of freedom from responsibility built into the lyrics. It feels like the sunshine and fun have come back after a long winter.


“Spoon” by Cibo Matto

Submitted by Terri Park, Associate Director of Education & Community Engagement

I love this band. This in particular has an art-pop/70’s funk style that gets me grooving and feeling happy!


“Paradise” by Sade

Submitted by Victoria Spain, Front of House Assistant Manager

I picked this song because I love listening to this when I clean or when I’m driving. It makes me think of warmer weather.


Playlist: UMS Staff “Quarantunes”

UMS Staff working from home

UMS staff members contributed tracks for a playlist of social distancing and easy listening, to help stay calm and productive while working from home.

Tap to listen on your preferred streaming service, and read about the inspiration behind some of our picks below:

Apple Music logo  Spotify logo


“Lavez Vous” by The Bandana Splits

Submitted by Jessica Adamczyk, executive assistant to the president

I heard this song on WCBN as a bit of a PSA about washing one’s hands…

 

“Sun It Rises” by Fleet Foxes

Submitted by Alex Gay, assistant production manager

This is my favorite album to start the morning. Very chill and atmospheric…perfect for the sunrise.

 

Suite bergamasque, L. 75 by Claude Debussy

Submitted by Matthew VanBesien, UMS president

I bought Zoltan Kocsis’s CD while at Indiana University studying music, and listened to it non-stop for nearly a semester! Aside from discovering the incredible world of Debussy’s piano music (I only knew the orchestral works and probably “Claire de Lune” at that point…), Kocsis’ wonderful, stylish and sometimes sensual interpretation is like a well-made Negroni: one part exquisite beauty, one part melancholy, and one part hope mixed with sheer delight. 

 

“Chimacum Rain” by Linda Perhacs

Submitted by Jacob Gibson

The track I chose is from Linda Perhac’s album Parallelograms. Born out of an unlikely collaboration between Linda Perhacs, a dental hygenist living in Topanga Canyon, and Leonard Roseman, a film composer who studied 12-tone composition with Schoenberg and Dallapiccola, the result is a truly unique folk record. The album is other-worldly, yet grounded in Perhacs’s intimate songwriting – the perfect escape from the recent chaos.

 

“Tangled up in Blue” by Bob Dylan

Submitted by Marnie Reid, associate director of development, major gifts and planned giving.

This is a tough week for social isolation for me. My husband died a year this week. So instead of being socially isolated, my big crazy family and friends are channeling virtual connections. We had a cocktail hour via Zoom with 30 participants from at least 13 states. We had a dance party on Zoom for St. Patrick’s Day. And I play the music my husband loved from the playlist, “Kitchen Dance Tunes,” he made for me.

 

Three Chords and the Truth by Van Morrison

Submitted by Carmen Rodriguez, VP, finance and administration

As I work from home my music (much to my kids’ dismay) to motivate and soothe is Van Morrison (as my kids say “who?!”) I am enjoying his new album – Three Chords and the Truth. Funny I read that this is his 41st album. Just to think that this year marked UMS 141st season…. well we got 100 years on Van Morrison’s record career!…… and UMS will continue to bring motivating and soothing performances to our patrons.

 

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons Recomposed by Max Richter

Submitted by Ryan Davis, VP and chief development officer

‘Vivaldi Recomposed’ is on repeat and has been since we heard it earlier this season in Hill Auditorium. It is especially healing for my daily walks and meditation…it’s quite extraordinary how the scenery changes while listening to it.

 

“River Jordan” by Rochelle Clark

Submitted by Rochelle Clark, ticket services associate (and check out her full album, In Time !!!)

I recorded this song this past fall. It always reminds me of heading “home” to Northern Michigan. Northern Michigan (in particular the U.P.) is heaven to me and I can’t wait to fill my lungs with all that fresh air north of the 45 soon!

 

“Finding Gabriel” by Brad Mehldau

Submitted by Mark Jacobson, senior programming manager

Pianist and composer Brad Mehldau released this final track on his Nonesuch Records album of the same title last spring, a moment which feels like a different — but in some ways, similar — lifetime ago. According to Brad, “Finding Gabriel came after reading the Bible closely for the last several years.” Brad performs all of the instruments and vocals on this track — layering everything in the studio as a one-man band. The track serves as the epitome of his artistic and spiritual ideas on this work, a wondrous culmination to the album. As Brad elaborates, “It seemed that the trick was to listen to Gabriel’s words through all the noise….”

 

“when the party’s over” by Billie Eilish

Submitted by Anna Simmons, systems specialist

My go-to of late has been Billie Eilish. Her style and tone keep the stress at bay while her lyrics aren’t as distracting as other music can be.

 

Hecuba by Oracle Hysterical

Submitted by Maddy Wildman, education & community engagement programs manager

I’m listening to the album Hecuba by Oracle Hysterical because it’s so, so good! It also reminds me of my friend Brad who plays bassoon on the album and is awesome.

 

Classic by HAUSER

Submitted by Eric Woodhams, senior manager of digital media

There’s always comfort listening to the cello…it’s so much like the human voice. HAUSER of classical crossover group 2CELLOS (confession…I’m a big fan!) recently released a solo album, Classic — a mix of gorgeous arrangements from symphonic, ballet, and opera repertoire backed by the London Symphony Orchestra. It’s an easy listen, and I admire these artists’ ability to introduce classical works to millions of new listeners in modern and meaningful ways.

 

“Don’t Lose Your Good Thing” by Etta James

Submitted by Jeff Beyersdorf, production director

Etta…because Etta.

 

“Whiskey Six” by Chris Buhalis

Submitted by Lisa Murray, associate director of development, foundation & government relations

I’m one of those people who prefers to work without music playing, but I have become a new fan of Facebook Live concerts, which I highly recommend as a way to stay engaged and keep supporting artists — you can donate the cost of a ticket to the artist while they perform. I tuned in to a recent concert by local folk artist Chris Buhalis, who was supposed to tour in Italy this spring. As usual for me, I’m finally catching up to something that others have been doing for months now… but I can also recommend a TV show I just heard about that’s supposed to be great, I think it’s called ‘Game of Thrones’?!… 🙂

 

Four Impromptus, Op. 90, D.899 by Franz Schubert

Submitted by Sara Billmann, VP, marketing

Schubert is always so hopeful, comforting, and inspiring, and this recording by Maria Joāo Pires — someone who, sadly, UMS never presented — is an all-time favorite.

 

“Alien Observer” by Grouper

Submitted by Jacob Rogers, patron services assistant

Grouper’s music is like a heavy blanket you can curl up under, something grounded and warm and enveloping. She’s an artist whose music has accompanied me alongside many of the quietest moments of my life, both good and bad, and as I’ve been settling into the stillness of this moment her music again has been a force of comfort and reassurance to me.

 

“Rearrange My Heart” by Che Apalache

Submitted by Teagan Faran, patron services assistant

Catching up on Che Apalache’s album “Rearrange My Heart.” Their mix of bluegrass and Latin American folk is the sound of friendship to me and helps to get through socially distanced times.

 

“How It Ends” by Devotchka

Submitted by Amanda Dempsey, development associate

I’ve been listening to Devotchka’s live album with the Colorado Symphony. I love when musicians perform live with a full orchestra. Devotchka has one of my favorite sets but Gregory Alan Isakov and Ben Folds will probably be next in my music queue.

 

“Astral Weeks” by Van Morrison

Submitted by Mallory Shea, marketing and media relations manager

I’ve been listening to Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks a lot while working from home. The entire album is just so good, all the way through, and that signature Van Morrison mumble keeps the lyrics from becoming too distracting.

Staff Picks: Must-See Events in the 2019/20 Season

UMS Staff Spring 2019
Which 2019/20 season events are UMS staff members most excited about? Meet some of the team and use their recommendations to help create your own Series:You package, or browse all events for more inspiration as you plan your performance season!


erin caslerErin Casler

Group Sales and Promotions Coordinator
Joined UMS in 2017

Must-See Event: Grupo Corpo

“The energy and athleticism the Grupo Corpo dancers have is astonishing. The melding of traditional Brazilian dance forms with modern techniques creates a one-of-a-kind experience.”

Grupo Corpo


Ryan DavisRyan Davis

Chief Development Officer
Joined UMS in 2018

Must-See Event: Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal

“Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Joyce DiDonato are pure magic together…especially in Hill Auditorium!”

Yannick Nezet-Seguin conducting


Shannon Fitzsimons Moen

Campus Engagement Specialist
Joined UMS in 2013

Must See Event: Sheku Kanneh-Mason, cello

“Sheku’s wide-ranging musical tastes, infectious spirit, and incredible technique are a breath of fresh air…he’s a wonderful ambassador for the next generation of global classical music.”

Sheku Kanneh-Mason


Anne Grove

Artist Services Manager
Joined UMS in 2010

Must-See Event: Teaċ Daṁsa

“As someone who loves theatrical dance and Nordic music, I can’t wait to see this take on Swan Lake. From what I’ve seen in clips it reminds me of one of my favorite dance works, Walking Mad by Johan Inger, which some of you may remember from Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s 2010 performances at Power Center. I love the strange, dark view of the world and this piece seems to explore a similar atmosphere. They even wear pointy party hats!”

Teac Damsa


Mark Jacobson

Senior Programming Manager
Joined UMS in 1998

Must-See Event: Tarek Yamani Trio

“Tarek Yamani is laying new groundwork in the development of a musical language that bridges jazz with traditional and contemporary rhythms and harmonies from the Arab World. For those who adore the unique communication possibilities that can happen within a piano trio (piano/bass/drums), this evening is highly recommended for you! We are honored to be co-presenting this UMS debut with the Arab American National Museum.”

Tarek Yamani Trio


Jim LeijaJim Leija

Director of Education & Community Engagement
Joined UMS in 2008

Must-See Event: Is This A Room: Reality Winner Verbatim Transcription

“Thrilling theater at its very best. Emily Davis and Pete Simpson give absolutely knockout lead performances. Davis’s simultaneous vulnerability and expressive power are a thing to behold…she somehow captures our deepest fears of living in a culture where technology dominates and we often feel our individual agency slipping away.”

Is This a Room?


Rachelle Michelon

Annual Giving Manager
Joined UMS in 2007

Must-See Event: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons / Max Richter’s Vivaldi Recomposed

“While previously unfamiliar with Max Richter, his meditative, minimalist composition style spoke to my soul right away and I can’t wait to hear Vivaldi’s iconic work performed twice in one night…in ways so similar yet so different.”

Daniel Hope and the Zurich Chamber Orchestra


Lisa Murray

Associate Director of Development, Foundation & Government Relations
Joined UMS in 1997

Must-See Event: Stew & The Negro Problem

“Their music is fun, insightful, sometimes uncomfortable, and often hilarious. I can’t wait to hear what they have to say about the work of James Baldwin and his relevance today.”

Stew


Terri Park

Education Coordinator
Joined UMS in 2014

Must-See Event: Sankai Juku

“Sankai Juku’s performances are compelling, movement that creates a balance between beauty and sometimes the grotesque in a single moment. For me, the performances are meditative, and as I watch I am transported to an alternate reality.”

Sankai Juku


Anné Renforth

Ticket Services Coordinator
Joined UMS in 2014

Must-See Event: The Believers Are But Brothers

“New, interesting, timely, and fascinatingly different than other stories being told about what makes people go down the path to extremes. I keep wondering what the difference between weak-willed and weak-minded is in the case of people who don’t start out with extreme views.”

The Believers Are But Brothers


Emilio Rodriguez

Community Programs Manager
Joined UMS in 2017

Must-See Event: White Feminist

“I’m excited to see White Feminist because I’m interested in theater that challenges the audience. Many times challenging theater reaffirms the political beliefs or ideology of the audience, but this piece promises to directly question the ways in which well-intentioned audiences can carry out decisions that are inadvertently harmful to others.”

Lee Minora in White Feminist


Eric WoodhamsEric Woodhams

Senior Manager of Digital Media
Joined UMS in 2018

Must-See Event: Hélène Grimaud, piano

“Grimaud’s energy and exquisite sound on the piano are uniquely hers, and the repertoire she performs from her ‘Memory’ album is a fabulous mix of timeless favorites and contemporary works.”

Hélène Grimaud


Feeling inspired? Craft a perfect performance season just for you and become a Series:You season ticketholder.

UMS Staff at Motown Museum

ums staff in front of motown museum

The UMS staff went for an outing on June 4! We started where it all began — with the Temptations at Detroit’s Motown Museum.

UMS Playlist: Classical Music Old Friends from Communications Director Sara Billmann

This post is a part of a series of playlists curated by UMS staff, artists, and community. Check out more music here.

SFS-ClassicalMusicPlaylist-FMA
Photo: San Francisco Symphony, who’ll perform Mahler Symphony No. 7 at Hill Auditorium on November 13, 2014.

I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin and studied piano from age 5 and oboe from age 11 in a family where music was central. My mother was a piano teacher, taught vocal music in the public schools, and directed her church choir; my sister became a professional horn player and freelances in New York; and even my father, a middle school math teacher for over 35 years, participated by periodically singing in a local chorus and playing the baritone in a local German band.

Because of that background, I was constantly exposed to classical music, but there are some pieces that stand out as having made an incredible impression on me as a young musician from the time of middle school until early college. While my tastes have certainly evolved over the years, these are still my “old friends” that I love to revisit and never grow tired of.

Mahler Levine

James Levine recording of Mahler 1.

Mahler’s Symphony No. 1: I fell in love with this piece in 7th or 8th grade and can remember being home alone, turning out all of the lights, and lighting candles to listen to an early James Levine recording in a complete solitude. Mahler could take me to a place of incredible peace, only to be interrupted by the bombastic beginning to the fourth movement, which always scared the bejeezus out of me. To this day, I’m still a pushover for Mahler and the emotional range that his symphonic and vocal works explore.

 

Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 2: As an oboe player, I loved playing along with the record of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2. It’s such a joyful piece, fun to play, but also fun to listen to. My sister would occasionally play along with me, adapting the trumpet part for horn.

Beethoven Symphony No. 9: I played this work in high school with my local orchestra (with my sister also in the orchestra and my dad in the chorus). Being immersed in the sound of full orchestra plus chorus all on one stage was a remarkable experience for a young musician.

Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien: While seemingly not performed very often these days, this is one of the first classical music pieces that I can remember falling in love with, probably in about 5th or 6th grade. If I remember correctly, we had an LP that included Capriccio Italien, Marche Slave, and 1812 Overture, but it was always Capriccio Italien that I returned to time and again.

Dvorák’s “New World” Symphony: Dvorák’s works are readily accessible and easy to listen to, but certainly not “easy listening.” A recent New York Times article talked about how Dvorák ended up in Iowa, where he wrote this symphony.

Schubert: When I left Wisconsin to move to Ann Arbor to attend the University of Michigan, my sister (then a senior at the University of Wisconsin) made a couple of cassette tapes for me of some of her favorite pieces by Schubert, which I listened to constantly for several years. Among the highlights: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing Die schöne Müllerin, the “Trout” Quintet and the Rondo in D Major for piano duo. Sadly, her tape ran out in the middle of the work, and it was years before I heard how it ended.

Shostakovich: Michael Gowing, the former UMS ticket office manager who retired over a decade ago, considered Shostakovich a “B movie composer,” but I always loved his works. While in college here at U-M, I heard Mariss Jansons conduct the Oslo Philharmonic in Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 with its Bolero-like theme, and it was an extraordinary event that began a lifelong appreciation for Shostakovich’s works. I still love listening to the string quartets (especially Nos. 7, 8, and 15), his piano quintet, and many of the symphonies. The Kirov Orchestra’s performance of his Symphony No. 13 several years ago left me in tears, completely shaken at the power of music.

Listen to various selections and recordings of Sara’s picks on Spotify:

What did you think about this playlist? Share your thoughts or song suggestions in the comments below.

UMS Staff Bowling

UMS staff had a ball bowling together this week.

Education & Community Engagement at UMS

Einstein, Again

Some of our most exciting events during the 2011-2012 season were the preview performances of Einstein on the Beach at the Power Center in January.

Widely credited as one of the greatest artistic achievements of the 20th century, Einstein on the Beach is a rarely performed and revolutionary work that launched director Robert Wilson and composer Philip Glass to international success when it was first produced in Avignon, France in 1976, with subsequent performances in Europe and at the Metropolitan Opera. It is still recognized as one of their greatest masterpieces. This year, nearly four decades after it was first performed and 20 years since its last production, Einstein on the Beach has been reconstructed for a major international tour.

Some our staff decided to see the production again this summer at Luminato Festival. We wanted to know what it’s like to see Einstein, again.

1. What was your experience/role during the Einstein on the Beach production in Ann Arbor? Why did you decide to see the production at Luminato?

Beth Gilliland: I had the opportunity to do some “lightwalking” during the rehearsal process here in Ann Arbor. I spent many hours onstage on the spaceship, at the judges’ desk, in the courtroom, and even as Einstein – wig and all! – sitting in the “Einstein Chair” downstage right. I did get to see the entire production here in Ann Arbor, but wanted to see it again in Toronto to have a little more perspective on the show – to be more removed from the intense rehearsal process and just see it for what it is. [Ed’s Note: Beth is also our IT master at UMS!]

Jenny Graf: I manage the Ticket Office at UMS so my time (and brain) was very consumed with making sure the ticket office ran smoothly for the performances. All of the Ann Arbor performances were sold out, so that added extra stress for me. In January, I attended only the second half of the Friday preview performance. We had two other performances, but I wasn’t mentally ready to go back to one of the other performances, to sit and take it all in. However, even just seeing the second half of the production was enough to interest me. About a week later, I started regretting not seeing the whole performance. I bought a CD of Einstein and listened to it often. When the opportunity came up to see Einstein in Toronto, I jumped on it! I needed to see what I missed!

Sigal Hemy: I was an Education intern at UMS during Einstein. I wasn’t directly involved with much of the production, but I did take a few of the musicians to U-M classes. Being involved in all the build up around those classes and in the office made me really excited to see the opera in Ann Arbor. When I did see the performance here, it affected me much more than I expected. The music and the choreography were challenging, but in a way that kept me very engaged and curious. I had unanswered questions after the performance, and hoped that seeing it a second time at Luminato would let me come away with a sense of greater understanding.

2. What did you think?

BG: Interestingly enough, my mind still wandered to all the activity onstage while lightwalking – its still not possible for me to separate my personal experiences with the show from the action of merely watching the show. I guess in a certain way, everyone in the theater participates in the show at any given point – and all performances are affected by what you bring to them. Overall, though, the show has really developed – it’s much more polished – some of the music has come together beautifully with the action onstage.

JG: WOW! I was in awe. To be honest, when I heard that UMS was going to be presenting Einstein on the Beach, I was not interested in the piece. I had listened to some of the music and seen some clips and it just didn’t seem to fit my taste. I hadn’t planned on seeing the performance. In the weeks leading up to the January performances, I started getting excited about seeing Einstein. Since I thought it was more than I could handle anyway, I thought seeing just the second half would be enough to capture the experience. It only took me about a week to realize that I was wrong. I needed to see it all. June couldn’t come soon enough! I was nervous and excited to see the work in its entirety. I had decided that I was not going to leave the theater until the end unless I absolutely had to. I’m proud to say that I barely even budged in my seat because I was so captivated. It’s hard to put it into words how I felt about it. (see below) I enjoyed seeing how the production had evolved since January.

SH: The second time I saw the performance, I was able to flow with the performance, rather than being overwhelmed by the relentlessness of the work. This allowed me to take in many more of the details and assign them some sort of significance. I think in a production like Einstein, where there is so much going on, being able to anticipate anything is hugely helpful. In my case, it allowed me to catch all the detail in the lighting and in the choreography that I had missed the first time in favor of listening to the music.

3. How much did this performance stir your imagination? Overall, how strong was your emotional response to this performance?

BG: I wouldn’t say I was lost in the ‘experience’ of the show, as much as I was lost in the ‘production’ of the show, but that is likely due to my previous experience and also training in technical theater. But having seen it, you really want the people around you to enjoy it – and I found myself sometimes wanting people to pay attention to certain parts that I thought were the most brilliant, and instead there were lots of people in and out of their seats – particularly during the knee plays, which were my favorite parts. But I will say at the point after the spaceship, when the scrim depicting the atomic explosion comes in, you could hear a pin drop – it was really moving. The music and visuals had climaxed at just the right point to achieve a very emotional effect. Hair raising, chills, lump in the throat kind of effect.

Photo: The spaceship.

JG: I had a very emotional response which was incredibly unexpected. The moment it began, I started to cry. Literally every time the music changed to a new idea, I started crying again! I was shocked at this response to the work. I’ve never been so emotionally involved in a live performance. It was all so beautifully done. One of the most beautiful moments for me was during Knee Play 4. Two of the actors are laying on glass tables and moving their bodies in interesting positions. In Ann Arbor, I was captivated by the way the lighting captured beautiful images on the backdrop of the stage that reminded me of rain water running down a window. In Toronto, Beth pointed out to me that the lighting also captured images on the backdrop of the stage below the tables that looked just like the way the actors moved their bodies in the chairs during Knee Play 2! I was blown away at that attention to detail (naturally, I cried more!). When it ended, I felt really emotionally drained. I had just witnessed something truly epic. I wonder if I’ll ever get to see it again but if I don’t, the experience I had in Toronto was amazing and I am thrilled to have been able to see it!

Knee Play 4:

SH: I think part of what made Einstein so interesting was the fact that it defied all of my expectations. As an audience member, I’m used to taking a certain amount of comfort from tropes and expectations that are always fulfilled. Einstein threw all of those things out the window, forcing me to continuously ask myself what exactly was happening. There was never a moment that my imagination was not engaged. While creating that much meaning for myself was difficult at first, I found it more and more exciting as the show went on. In fact, it was that very feeling of stirred imagination that led me to see it a second time.

4. Why do you think some arts experiences “stick”? [You remember them vividly later in life] And why don’t others “stick”? Do you think Einstein is sticky?

BG: Einstein is definitely “sticky” for me – maybe mostly due to experiencing it in Ann Arbor first – but also because it really is a “one-of-a-kind” event. Often in shows I’ve seen there are particular pieces of it that stick with you – for me a lot of them are technical aspects – or its a particular performance by a specific actor/actress/musician/dancer in the production. Its the shows that leave me feeling physically overcome at the end – emotionally drained – that I find stay with me the longest. The ones where you can’t even leave your seat when the production is over, because you’ve been that transported. And when you do finally come out of it, you find the nearest person and talk their ear off about what just happened. Einstein will probably stick with me for a long time, because of the emotional response to working on the production here in Ann Arbor, more so than the act of watching the show itself. But I certainly hope others had that same type of experience in the audience!

JG: Yes, I do think that Einstein is “sticky.” In the past few months, I have seen several UMS productions that drew my mind back to Einstein. Einstein on the Beach makes me want to slow the world down and “savor” moments more than I do. I’m not sure what makes it stick. It’s a piece that you know is from the 1970s and you can tell it’s from the 1970s yet it feels so modern at the same time. I think that the timeless qualities are part of what might make it sticky.

SH: I think that a performance sticks out in your mind when something about it is different. It could be anything from your personal circumstances on the day of the performance to the quality of the performance itself, but I think something needs to happen to prevent it from blending in with any other similar experience. In this way, Einstein is so different from any other classical performance that, for me, every single detail sticks out vividly.

5. How much did you feel a sense of connection to others in the audience?

BG: I also took the opportunity to step out in the lobby in Toronto during the performance (I watched the entire show in Ann Arbor). I was shocked at how many people were just mingling outside, some were reading, chatting, walking – it was a whole other performance just in the lobby! Fascinating opportunity to people watch, and imagine what they were thinking about the show. I didn’t talk to anyone directly, but I do remember the woman next to me in the audience would often just gasp, and say “Beautiful! Beautiful!” Most people seemed to be into it.

JG: I don’t think I really felt a direct connection with others in the audience. But I do like the notion that we shared an experience of witnessing something powerful. After the performance, many people stood outside the theater, perhaps not wanting to let go of the experience. I know that’s how I felt!

6. What questions do you still have about the production or for the directors or performers?

BG: The show is constructed in such a way that allows the audience to drift and meditate on other things outside the production, whether it be through the music or visuals or otherwise. With all the rehearsals and performances, I wonder if the performers ever get lost in the show itself – if they ever have that opportunity – or if it is too strict/technical of a performance to allow for those moments. While the experience of being in the show is I’m sure fantastic, do they feel like they’ve missed the opportunity to experience the production as so many others do? I’m also curious as to what the production is like from Jasper’s young perspective (The Boy — a child actor in the production).

JG: I wonder what the production would be like if Robert Wilson and Philip Glass weren’t directly involved in the remounting of Einstein on the Beach. Would it have the same magic if the creators weren’t putting their stamp of approval on the work? Lastly, is there going to be a new CD out of this remounting? If so, I’ll definitely add it to my collection!

Did you see Einstein in Ann Arbor, or another performance that’s”sticks” in your mind long after? What do you think makes some live performance experiences more”sticky” than others?

Ken Fischer’s 25th anniversary at the helm of UMS

On June 1st, UMS staff celebrated Ken Fischer’s 25th anniversary at the helm of UMS. We made a scrapbook, too.

[PLAYLIST] UMS Staff Summer Music Picks

Summer is here. We asked our UMS staff to submit songs that say “summer” to them. Our picks:

Artist: The Decemberists
Song: July, July!
Why: JULY!
Picked by: Truly Render, Press & Marketing Manager

Artist: Nat King Cole
Song: Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days Of Summer
Why: His voice inspires summer – fun, restful, and the freedom you feel in the summer (at least when we were all young and had summers off).
Picked by: Cindy Straub, Advisory Committee & Events Coordinator

Artist: Aaron Copeland
Song: Appalachian Spring
Why: Summer favorite.
Picked by: Jerry Blackstone, Conductor UMS Choral Union.

Artist: Limbeck
Song: Julia
Why: My favorite band ten years or so ago (and possibly still today, if forced to choose), was a group called Limbeck.  They’re from California. They love Gram Parsons and Brian Wilson. They write alt-country, nostalgia-fueled tunes inspired by road trips and friends. This particular song, Julia, was released as part of a recording called Hi, Everything’s Great—the CD liner notes were a series of “postcards,” one per song, each with a hazy photograph taken by the singer and a short written memory about the inspiration for each song.  It came out in June of 2003—I remember buying it at Vertigo Records in Grand Rapids with no prior knowledge of the group, and proceeding to listen to it on repeat during my entire drive back to Ann Arbor in a car that had no working AC.
Picked by: Mary Roeder, Residency Coordinator

Artist: R.E.M.
Song:  Night Swimming
Why: Summer favorite.
Picked by: Marnie Reid, Manager of Individual Support

Artist: XTC
Song: Summer’s Cauldron
Why: It has the word “summer” in the title, the lyrics are all about summer, and it has the sound of crickets incorporated into the song… kind of hits you over the head that it’s a song for summertime. I’m a little embarrassed to list this song, though, because it both dates me and pegs me… psychedelic bubblegum for aging punker wannabees.
Picked by: Lisa Murray, Manager of Foundation & Government Grants

Artist: The Rapture
Song: First Gear
Why: Best roadtrip song ever. Just try not to speed.
Picked by: Truly Render, Press & Marketing Manager

Artist: The Lovin’ Spoonful
Song: Summer in the City
Why: Love this song. It came out when I was in middle school and we all danced up a storm to it. When I hear it now, I have to crank up the sound and dance like a fool.
Picked by:  Cindy Straub, Advisory Committee & Events Coordinator

Artist: Bob Marley & The Wailers
Song: Three Little Birds
Why: Summer favorite.
Picked by: Marnie Reid, Manager of Individual Support

Artist: Recorded by Stan Getz, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Astrud Gilberto.
Song: Corcovado
Why: Bossa nova at its languid best.
Picked by: Lisa Murray, Manager of Foundation & Government Grants

Artist: Frank Sinatra
Song: Summer Wind
Why: Along with featuring the word summer in its title, this song is top of the playlist when the weather gets nice, sunglasses go on, and the windows in my car get rolled down….
Picked by: Mike Michelon, Project Administrator

Artist: Vampire Weekend
Song: Holiday
Why: There’s something distinctly beachy about the breezy guitar driven beat; a great song to play as you drive out of town for the weekend.
Picked by: Jim Leija, Director, Education & Community Engagement

Artist: Beach Boys
Song: Surfin USA
Why: The sound of this song makes me conjure up thoughts of the surf in California, you can hear the water rushing in and out. I lived in CA when I was first married, and my husband was in the Navy stationed in Oakland, CA. It brings back happy memories of the times we spent at the beach along Highway 1.
Picked by: Kathy Brown, Executive Assistant

Artist: The Black Keys
Song: Lonely Boy
Why: Summer favorite.
Picked by: Sarah Wilber, Group Sales Coordinator.

Artist: Mungo Jerry
Song: In the Summer Time
Why: I accompanied my sister and some close friends on a couple of “hike in” camping trips, and this was the favorite song of one of the other campers.  She would sing it all the way to the campsite and throughout our camping time.  It always reminds me of summer and those wonderful times on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Picked by: Anne grove, Artist Services Manager

Artist: Robin Ward
Song: Wonderful Summer
Why: This was such a beautiful song, it reminds you of anyone who has ever experienced a summer romance, then had to leave their true love behind.  Plus, it was a great “slow dance” song.
Picked by: Kathy Brown, Executive Assistant

Artist: Sandro Silva & Quintino
Song: Epic
Why: I love the way this soft-house track builds up to the beat drop about forty seconds into the song. It reminds me of the electronic music festivals that happen across the country throughout the summer months, and makes me want to dance!
Picked by: Sophie Kruz, Video Editor

Artist: Christopher Cross
Song: Sailing
Why: It’s an oldie, but brings back great memories of past summers and relaxing times away from time pressures.
Picked by: Jerry Blackstone, Conductor UMS Choral Union.

Artist: Lily Allen
Song: LDN
Why: Perfect bike commute song. Not that you should ride with your iPod on. That is bad. Tisk.
Picked by: Truly Render, Press & Marketing Coordinator

Artist: The Samples
Song: Did you ever look so nice
Why: Every summer when I visit my sister’s family, we spend time lounging in & around the pool.  Her husband makes a mix CD for each summer and this is one song from the 2003 mix. when I hear it, it puts me right back in the pool on a lazy summer day.
Picked by: Anne grove, Artist Services Manager

Artist: Kanye West
Song: Champion
Why: We should all occasionally enjoy songs that get our speakers bumping below 100Hz. “Champion” is a great song to remind us that summer starts when school finally lets out…
Picked by: Mike Michelon, Project Administrator

Artist: Reptar
Song: Isoprene Bath
Why: My new obsession is a group called Reptar (a reference to a character from the Nickelodeon cartoon, Rugrats).  They write some truly bizarre and yet somehow still catchy pop songs that seem equally inspired by surf rock as they are by West-African rhythms—the stuff of summertime, musically-speaking.  As evidence, I offer this track entitled Isoprene Bath.  Forgive the title and trust me (and them)—if for no other reason than they’re from Georgia—it’s always summertime there.
Picked by: Mary Roeder, Residency Coordinator

Artist: k.d. lang
Song: Summerfling
Why: The Beach Boys vibe combined with a tale of summer love and Lang’s powerhouse vocals make this one of my favorite lounging on the beach tunes.
Picked by: Jim Leija, Director, Education & Community Engagement

Artist: Dave Matthews Band
Song: Stay (Wasting Time)
Why: I spent a few good years as a Dave Matthews fanatic which resulted in many mini-road trips to lots of summer concerts around the Midwest. While my Dave obsession has worn off, this song always evokes the feeling of how much I love enjoying a great concert in beautiful weather at an outdoor venue in the summertime!
Picked by: Liz Stover, Programming Coordinator

Artist: Tupac
Song: California Love
Why: Summer favorite.
Picked by: Sarah Wilber, Group Sales Coordinator.

What are your summer music favorites? Share them in the comments below.

Staff Picture Day Last Week

Spotlight on Sara Sanders

Sara Sanders, UMS Front-of-House Coordinator

Sara Sanders, UMS Front-of-House Coordinator

If you’ve attended a performance presented by UMS in the last three seasons, you may have seen Sara Sanders in the lobby.  As UMS’s Front-of-House Coordinator, Sara manages everything that happens “in the house” and off the stage from the auditorium to the lobby and beyond.   Sara recruits and trains the UMS Usher Corps, handles patrons’ issues, and generally tries to make sure everyone is happy and having a great experience when they attend a UMS performance.

Outside of the performance venues, Sara is pursuing a Masters degree in Public Administration, with a focus on non-profit organizations, at Eastern Michigan University.

Recently I sat down with Sara and asked her a few questions to help us all get to know her better.

JN: What is your performing arts/musical background?
SS:  I was in Footloose at Fowlerville High.  I also tried violin and piano.

JN:  What do you want to be when you grow up?
SS:  Ken Fischer!  No, really, I’d like to work in non-profit arts administration.  Ideally, I’d like to work with an under-served population.

JN:  What is your biggest challenge as a front-of-house coordinator?
SS:  Balancing everyone’s needs . . . the ushers, the patrons, the staff, the artists.

JN:  If there was one thought you’d like to convey to UMS audience members, what would it be?
SS:  Please be on time for performances.

JN: What audience behaviors elicit the most complaints?
SS:  I hear a lot of complaints about the use of cameras and cell phones during performances.  People also talk to me about other patrons coughing.  We provide cough drops to help with that problem.

JN:  What is the time commitment for a UMS usher?
SS:  Full-time ushers can work up to 50 hours in a season at Hill Auditorium.  The time commitment for people who work on multiple crews can be twice or three times as many hours, when including some of our other venues.  We couldn’t operate without our volunteers, and we very much appreciate all they do for us.

JN: What changes have you seen in audiences over the three years you’ve been in your job?
SS: It’s not a culture change, but it seems like people have more interest in UMS and have more knowledge of the organization.  I’ve also seen a lot more students in the audience than before.

JN:  What was your favorite UMS performance so far?
SS:  Without a doubt, it was Complicite’s A Disappearing Number.

JN:  Describe a perfect day.
SS:  Lots of sunshine; warm, but not too warm; being out and about in Ypsilanti (I’m having a love affair with Ypsilanti).

JN:  What’s your favorite meal?
SS:  Breakfast, if it’s done right.

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