Inspiration through Outreach

Omari Rush with Soprano Renee Fleming

Omari Rush

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.

As a graduate student, Rush did an internship in U-M's University Musical Society's (UMS) Education and Community Engagement Department. "Even though I 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.

Today, Rush continues to share his love for music and the arts through education and outreach as UMS' Education Manager, where he 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," says Rush (shown above with Renée Fleming, an American soprano and UMS presenter whose repertoire encompasses Richard Strauss, Mozart, Handel, opera, jazz and indie rock).