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Learning:  "Ways to Expand Your Mind"

Musician Ignites and Inspires Youth through Outreach

By Danielle Clair, HR Communications intern.

Omari and Renee Fleming photo

University Musical Society (UMS) Education Manager, Omari Rush and world-renowned soprano, Renée Fleming at the annual Ford Honors Gala.

When dreams of playing an oboe similar to the one he’d seen Billy Crystal playing in Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre production of "The Three Little Pigs" had to be altered because the music store didn’t have the instrument in stock the day of his visit, nine year old Omari Rush was persuaded to take home a clarinet instead. It’s safe to say he eventually took a liking to the woodwind instrument. Rush earned an undergraduate degree in clarinet performance from Florida State University before relocating to Ann Arbor to attend U-M, where he earned a Master’s in clarinet performance. “What was great about the program is that the faculty was all at the top of their field and really great musicians. My peers were some of the best in the country also, so I learned a lot working with them,” says Rush. Eight years later, the Tallahassee, FL native now considers Ann Arbor home.

As a graduate student, Rush reluctantly did an internship in U-M’s University Musical Society’s (UMS) Education and Community Engagement Department. “Even though I didn’t think I wanted to be in this department and had no experience working with kids, I went ahead and did it and it turned out to be wonderful,” says Rush. He found the work to be very fulfilling, yet challenging and was mentored by many of the staff in the department.

Now retired from music, with his clarinet quietly tucked away, Rush continues to share his love for music and the arts through education and outreach as UMS’ Education Manager, a position that he was offered immediately upon completing his graduate program.

Rush manages the department’s K-12 program for area schools, students and teachers. This program brings visiting musical, dance and theater artists from all over the world to local classrooms for workshops that provide an in-depth look at the arts. The program also takes students from the classroom to daytime performances and develops a curriculum and resource guides for teachers to connect what students see on stage to what is being taught in the classroom. Rush believes that exposure to all forms art is important in developing young people and helping them to lead happy, healthy lives. “Exposing young people to the arts is really important because it opens them up to possibilities in the world. They can be inspired by what they see on stage,” says Rush.   

Rush’s favorite part of his job is seeing students become comfortable with unfamiliar art forms, performances and environments. “At a performance in Hill Auditorium, I heard one of the students ask an usher if we were in a castle,” says Rush. “Transporting kids to magical places like Hill is always fun because it’s so huge and beautiful and unlike any other building many have seen before.” He is also pleased to hear stories of professional artists who were influenced by UMS performances they attended when they were younger.

Along with UMS, Rush is looking forward to working with artists and performers in the southeastern Michigan community to help extend the impact of UMS programs even after the visiting artists have left.


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University Musical Society