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Who’s Sitting Next to You? Adventure and Ushers

Editor’s Note: This post is a part of a series featuring our audience! Do you know someone who should be featured? Email suggestions to or feel free to snap a photo and ask a question and send it to us.

During our 2013-2014 season, as part of our focus on dance, we ran an Adventure Card challenge, which encourage participants to explore not only dance performances but related educational & community engagement events, as well as opportunities to participate online. Donna Ellinghausen-Scheys was the winner of our challenge.

Donna EllinghausenUMS: You participated in many activities focusing on dance during our 2013-2014 season, so much so that you’ve won our adventure card challenge? Are you an avid dance lover? If not, which performances do you enjoy attending?

Donna: I can’t say that I’m an advid dance lover, but I love to move to music, dance, see how others interpret the music into moment in both free form and choreographed. I absolutely love to go orchestral performances. It’s amazing to feel the music.

UMS: Could you tell us a little about yourself? Do you live in Ann Arbor? What do you do when you are not winning adventure card challenges?

Donna: I live in Ann Arbor I love going to various concerts, lectures and performances in and near Ann Arbor. I like to kayak, swim and go walking. I’m an RN and retired from UM’s neonatal intensive care unit in 2012. I currently am working as a contingent RN with Arbor Hospice.

UMS: What’s the most memorable live arts experience you’ve attended? What’s special about attending performances for you?

Donna: My most memorable live arts experience was at Interlochen Arts Camp where my mother had arranged for us to tour and was also able to get us tickets to see Van Cliburn perform there. It was truly awesome!

Someone else you might find in the seat next to you is Bluebird Sherry Harper. She hails from Tecumseh. She has returned to Michigan after living and teaching Spanish in the South and is a fourth-year usher. 

Bluebird Sherry HarperUMS: What inspires you to be an excellent usher?

Bluebird: As a young teen I was fortunate to be invited to be part of the Michigan Youth Symphony and perform at Hill Auditorium. This was a thrill and honor that gave me the further opportunity to attend Interlochen Arts Camp on scholarship during the summers. The mission statement of Interlochen, “Dedicated to the Promotion of World Friendship Through the Universal Language of the Arts,” has guided and inspired me my entire life. I bring this love, passion, and respect for the arts to my ushering voluntarism, always delighted to share with the patrons who arrive excited to enjoy the varied and wonderful UMS performances. My cheerful countenance and friendly nature are assets that hopefully enhance the experience for others. Serving as an usher has allowed me to enjoy a broad base of fabulous artists and events with the added fun of occasionally being able to speak Spanish or Portuguese with our guests!

Do you know someone who should be featured on “Who’s Sitting Next to You”? Are you sitting next to someone at a performance right now? Send us a recommendation, or a quick Q&A with a photo to

Who’s Sitting Next to You?

Editor’s Note: This post is a part of a series featuring our audience! Do you know someone who should be featured? Email suggestions to or feel free to snap a photo and ask a question and send it to us.

rachel-pernickRachel Pernick is a sophomore undergraduate student at the University of Michigan in the Residential College. She is from Huntington Woods, Michigan. This is her second season ushering.

Kate Gorman (UMS Front of House Coordinator): What inspires you to be an excellent usher?

Rachel: As a student at the U-M, and this being only my second year living in Ann Arbor, I am entirely and constantly in awe of the staggering season listings and lineups that this city continues to bring to its citizens, who are ever-dedicated to the arts.

Especially as a young person in a crowd of often older folks, I hope to serve as a sort of pioneer and encourage younger folks to embrace the arts opportunities this city has to offer. I often find myself just as (if not more!) excited for a performance than the patrons are, even, and I know that my passion for the arts comes across in my interactions with patrons!

evelynn-hawkinsEvelynn Hawkins (public radio broadcaster) was sitting next to Beth Gilliland (UMS Tessitura Systems Administrator).

Beth: To you, what does it mean to “be present” during a performance or another arts experience?

Evelynn: In the sense that you’re physically there – you are “present.” You are catching a moment in a singular time and place. But something is “different.” Artists feed off the audience – they are like food for an artist. You can tell – you can feel it in the audience. Even the audience feeds off of the audience. Experiencing improv at this performance is like a cat’s cradle – it is still just a string – but something always changing.

Beth: Do you have a favorite place in the world or in Ann Arbor?

Evelynn: I love the West Coast – the mountains, the trees, the ocean – it has it all!!

elisabeth-kElisabeth K., 12, was sitting next to Sara Billmann (UMS Director of Marketing & Communications).

Sara: Why did you come to this performance?

Elisabeth: Because my mom made me.

Sara: What’s the most memorable concert you’ve been to at Hill Auditorium?

Elisabeth: Last year, my class came on a field trip for the New Orleans jazz concert.

Sara: On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the absolute most horrible thing your mother ever made you do and 10 being the most awesome, how does this concert rank?

Elisabeth: 9.25

Do you know someone who should be featured on “Who’s Sitting Next to You”? Are you sitting next to someone at a performance right now? Send us a recommendation, or a quick Q&A with a photo to

Interview with Ellen Sauer, UMS Student Guest Blogger

This season, we’ll introduce you to some of our audience members as part of our “Who’s sitting next to you?” series. To kick things off, we chat with Ellen Sauer, junior at Pioneer High school, who’ll also occasionally blog about her performance experiences for UMS Lobby.


Photo: Ellen Sauer

UMS: Please introduce yourself.
Ellen Sauer: My name is Ellen Sauer, I am 16 years old, and I am going to be a junior at Pioneer High school next year, where I play flute and piccolo in Symphony Band and Symphony Orchestra, and sing in A Cappella choir.

UMS: During our chat, you said that you’re passionate about music. How do you think this spark got started for you?
ES: I come from a very musical family. My parents both play(ed) the clarinet and met in music school, so music is central in our family’s life. I have been going to concerts and recitals, mostly classical, since I was two or three years old and continue to attend up to two or three a week during concert season. My dad has also been listening to recordings with me for as long as I can remember. I think what I’m trying to say is that music became important to me the moment I was born, and I have become more and more passionate with time.

What kinds of performances or arts experiences do you like to attend?
ES: I really enjoy orchestral concerts because I am probably the most familiar with orchestral repertoire and love the warm sound that an orchestra can produce. My favorite orchestral concert was the Mariinsky Orchestra’s rendition of Scheherazade a few years back. I also enjoy solo performances, predominately flute, but I have been to a broad array of solo and chamber music recitals, including a rather experimental bassoon one. Outside of classical music, I enjoy big band jazz, stage plays, and musicals. I really enjoy combined arts experiences that appeal to, but don’t over-stimulate, all of the senses. My best example of this would be the photo gallery that accompanied the New York Philharmonic performances last year, as well as the interview with musicians and the photographer following Saturday’s program.

UMS: Are you a performer yourself? How did you decide to pursue your instrument?
ES: I play flute and piccolo both as a soloist and in several curricular and extracurricular ensembles. I started on clarinet in fifth grade music class because all of the musicians I looked up to played the clarinet, and I figured I was genetically coded to play it. After a particularly painful few months, my mother was fed up with reminding me to practice and tired of putting up with my squeak-laden tone, so she suggested that I try the flute sitting in her closet from her band-directing days. I was equally upset with my progress, so I readily agreed. By the end of the week I knew my B-flat scale, a feat that had taken three months on clarinet, and by the end of the year I had an open-hole flute and private lessons. Looking back, it seems that flute chose me more than I chose flute. I began playing piccolo in the eighth grade for the Blue Lake and Slauson orchestras and continue to play it in school ensembles.

UMS: Do you have a favorite piece of music?
ES: I can’t say that I do have a favorite piece of music. All music is so unique and so wonderful that there really are no grounds for comparison. The same chord progression and simple melody can be put to counter point so many ways, the same lead-sheet can produce so many improvised solos, and even the same classical composition is played and interpreted differently every time.

UMS: You’re entering your junior year at Pioneer High School. Do you have a sense of what you might want to do after your graduate?
ES: I am excited to pursue a flute performance major, hopefully paired with a religion double major. Social justice and volunteer work are also two things very dear to my heart, so I am sure those will somehow figure in to my long-term plans.

UMS: Anything else we should know about you?
ES: I love sewing. In eighth grade I sewed a historically correct, civil-war era, purple satin gown and also made the hoop to go with it.

Look for Ellen’s writing on UMS Lobby this season!

Do you want to nominate someone you know for our “Who’s sitting next to you?” series? Email your suggestion to