In this new blog series, we’d like to check in with some of our past talent show participants and learn a little more about them, their art forms and how we can support their creative endeavors. Next up is Angie Renich, who was a finalist in our talent show not once but twice! Angie is extremely active in Eugene’s local arts community. Angie’s love of the arts started at a young age and she has shared her talents with so many people.
We got to catch up with Angie to see what she’s been up to with the recent pandemic, how she’s stayed motivated to keep creating and what projects she has been working on recently.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started working in the arts.
Growing up I was often making up songs, and as I got older it eventually turned into what you could actually call songwriting. After a year of college, I decided that all I really wanted was to learn how to write better music. I started studying music at LCC, earning my Associates Degree, then transferred to UO and earned a Bachelor of Music in Composition. I got a job as a graphic designer and made music my number one hobby. I sang with the Eugene Opera chorus for a few seasons, led worship at church, played coffee shops around town, and released a little album. I continued to write songs, but having kids interrupted my pursuit of music for a season. I was able to return to it again when my daughters started dancing, and for the past 8 years I’ve been composing music for ballet and musical theater and have been involved in teaching acting and directing shows.
You were a finalist in our talent show twice: once, with your children’s theater group and a second time singing a duet with your daughter. Can you speak a little about both entries & your creative process?
Like so many other theater groups, our studio (Hosanna Dance) had to shutter production on our new musical Ordinary Teenage Superheroes because of the shutdown in March 2020. So when the Hult Center announced the stay-at-home talent show, I saw an opportunity for my cast to share their hard work and talents. Some of the kids struggled to put on a happy face and record themselves singing alone at home; they were still in shock from all the things that were being taken away from them. But I am so proud of them for doing it. And I think that sharing their work with so many people—and then having their work recognized by the judges—encouraged them during a season of disappointment.
When the winter talent show was announced, I didn’t plan on entering. But I had always wanted to write a song about how difficult Christmas can be. So many people struggle through the holiday season because of separation from loved ones, either by distance or through loss. This year, separation from our loved ones was something we could all relate to. It was such a tangible grief. The night before the talent show deadline, I sat down and wrote most of the lyrics and the basic chord progression. My daughter Ava (who is a far more accomplished pianist than I am!) refined and improved it and added harmony. We recorded it the next morning, and I think we sent you the first take.
Has music always played a big role in your life and how so?
Yes, but in a very introverted way! Most of my music making growing up was on my own, where I could sing and make up songs and teach myself the piano and no one could hear me. We were part of a local church with a vibrant musical theater program for kids that helped get me out of my shell. In high school I got involved in choir and musical theater and learned to love being on a stage. I knew I would always want to be involved in music and theater in some capacity, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve reverted to moving behind the scenes, now as a composer and director.
Who are your biggest influences as an artist?
I saw my first musical at the Hult Center when I was 9 and fell in love with musical theater. This was during Ed Ragozzino’s Eugene Festival of Musical Theater days. At the same time, Les Miserables and The Little Mermaid were part of a kind of musical theater revival, and I was all in for all of it! As I got older I was drawn to singer/songwriter pianists who heavily influenced my solo music: Tori Amos, Ben Folds, Ian Axel, Keith Green. My musical theater influences came straight out of the 1980s intersection of the pop/musical theater worlds: Alan Menken, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Claude-Michel Schönberg & John Cameron. More recently I’ve been inspired by Irene Sankoff and David Hein’s Come From Away and the many composers working on new movie musicals (like The Greatest Showman and La La Land).
Describe a time during your career that challenged you. How did you overcome these challenges as an artist?
I would say that the biggest challenge overcoming what a life in the performing arts is “supposed to” look like. In college I was warned against pursuing a music composition degree. The argument was that there are very few jobs for composers, unless I wanted to move to LA and score movies. But the winding path of my musical life has shown me that there are opportunities right where you are to pursue what you love. Because I don’t earn a living in performing arts, it took me years to feel like I could call myself a musician and a composer.
How are you staying motivated during the pandemic to keep creating?
It’s tough. I’ve been a part of staging two shows this year, and creating theater in a pandemic is a mind-boggling and exhausting task. In October we were able to film Ordinary Teenage Superheroes at the Wildish, with no audience and a lot of safety measures in place. Last week we presented our ballet, Adventures in Narnia, through the Hosanna Performing Arts Foundation. We rented a giant fireworks tent, a stage, and lights so we could perform it outdoors with a social-distanced audience. We had to re-stage elements of these shows to make it Covid-safe. In both cases, the thing that has kept me going is giving our students the opportunity to keep performing. Their passion for music, dance, and performance doesn’t stop just because the theaters are closed. Being able to provide a way for them to keep pursuing their passion makes it all worth it.
Are there any artists or colleagues in our area that inspire you?
I have tremendous respect for the many actors, musicians, dancers, and stage crew in our community who are dedicated to pursuing their crafts. Many work day jobs in other fields, but they show up in the evenings on stages and backstage all over our community. Some of them are teachers, and they are passing on their passion to their students. These are the people creating a vibrant performing arts scene in our community, as well as laying the foundation for the next generation of artists.
What has been your biggest takeaway after working in the performing arts industry?
The path is going to look different for everyone, so don’t compare yourself to anyone else. You might not be the “next big thing,” but you can do big things for the people right next to you. Pursue your passion, and find a way to share it with others.
What advice do you have for individuals looking to explore creative opportunities in our area?
As someone who primarily pursues music and theater as a hobby and side job, I would encourage everyone—no matter how skilled or what age you are—to find creative outlets for their interests and talents. Our community offers so many opportunities for creative expression. Volunteer, take classes, join an amateur theater company, or enter a local talent show! Your creative voice matters.
Is there anything our readers can do to support any of your upcoming projects?
We are excited to have just released the Original Cast Recording of Ordinary Teenage Superheroes – A New Musical. We didn’t get to perform the music live, but we had the opportunity to create an in-studio audio recording of the songs. It was a surprise bonus and an opportunity we wouldn’t have had without the shutdown. You can order a copy of the CD here or follow us at ordinaryteenagesuperheroes on Facebook or Instagram.
If you’re interested in learning more about the ballet Adventures in Narnia, our website is www.adventuresinnarnia.com.
Interview by Abbey Aronica