The Joy of Music: An Interview With Brad Schoener MusicMan Academy Director, Rachel Brown

By Rachel Hauben

Upper Darby’s premiere summer music camp experience, the Brad Schoener MusicMan Academy, finished its tenth anniversary year with a bang. The incredible summer kicked off with the flagship program, MusicMan Camp, and pushed forward with Jazz Jam! camp, MusicMan Butterfly Buddy adaptive creative arts camp for children with special needs, and Stay in Shape summer music lessons. Led by Jen Schoener and Rachel Brown, the Brad Schoener MusicMan Academy looks forward to many more years of music making. 

MusicMan Academy Director Rachel Brown attended West Chester University for her undergraduate degree, and began teaching in the Upper Darby School District upon her graduation. Soon after, she returned to West Chester University to receive her master’s degree in Music Education and has continued as an Upper Darby School District music teacher ever since. Rachel Brown has been involved as a teacher at MusicMan Academy since its debut in 2012, and has held her current position for 7 years

We sat down with Rachel Brown to learn more about the richness of the MusicMan Academy program and her vision for encouraging the already-wonderful level of musicianship among participants. 

Q: What do you think makes MusicMan Camp so special?

A: Number one: it’s fun. Between the popsicles, the different movement activities, the drumming, the different instruments, and the instrument petting zoos, it’s not just coming and playing your instrument for a performance. It’s about coming to spend time with people who enjoy the same things that you do, learning from people who also have other interests as well that are not just classical musicians. They also do jazz, they also do theater, they also do all kinds of other things that are tangent to the arts that make it the rich experience that it is. We have so much fun, and the goal for Jen and me is that they leave having had a blast. 

Q: How does your vision for MusicMan Camp help to carry on Brad Schoener’s legacy?

A: I was fortunate enough to work with Brad for a few years before he passed. My initial experience with Brad – and I say this to Jen all the time – was when we would be in meetings and he would talk about the things that he would do: a mega band here, we do tours around the school, and at the holidays we all play together. I remember looking at my colleagues and going, “That’s amazing, I didn’t know you could do that.” I was so inspired by him, by the lack of limits that he had and the high expectations he had for all of his students in Upper Darby. Taking that and having had the pleasure and the privilege to work with Jen so long – who’s also a fantastic music teacher in her own right – being inspired by the both of them to not see any boundaries for anybody leads to us being able to give our campers and our families experiences that they wouldn’t normally have, that will support and enhance what the music faculty in Upper Darby is already doing, that will be able to go a little bit deeper or down a different avenue that they wouldn’t normally be able to do. So, the fun and the excitement and the unique opportunities I think are what makes MusicMan programs so special and I think is what carries on Brad’s legacy. 

Q: What does “uniting community through music” mean to you?

A: Music is one of those wonderful things that we have in life like art, theater, and language that doesn’t have boundaries. Everyone can keep a steady beat and whether or not they think they can, everybody can sing. Everyone can feel music and enjoy music, and it’s a part of everyone’s life. We have the privilege at MusicMan Academy– but also as musicians and as teachers and as a community – to be able to come together with that common bond, with the ability to see each other as who we are where other boundaries might exist. Whether it’s socially, financially, or politically, music allows us to come together in a way that other communities aren’t able to. I think it’s what makes us special: the diversity that comes through our community and all the different special traits & special additions to our community come together with music as the focal point. It allows us to kind of bridge any gaps that might be there so that we can enjoy each other as a community, help each other and see each other grow.

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