and written by Writer/Editor Colleen Jurkiewicz
Angie Mack Reilly’s latest artistic endeavor, Ozaukee Talent, took shape earlier this year in the form of a “musical laboratory” at the North Shore Academy of the Arts building on Broad Street in Grafton.
Through Ozaukee Talent, Mack Reilly will be teaching music to all ages, encouraging artistic collaboration, even a little networking and event planning. It’s the beginning of a new chapter in her almost 20-year career as a self-described “arts renaissance woman” who has worked as a teacher, singer, writer, director and actor.
But Ozaukee Talent also represents a deeply personal mission for Mack Reilly, who in 2012, after her very first mammogram, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was just 42 years old.
“I had to back out of a lot of my music duties and teaching duties and went through a lot of life questioning about quality of life,” recalled the wife and mother of three. “When you face something like cancer, it makes you really think about a lot of things. I just started to think, where’s my future heading, what is my dream passion, what does this community need? I thought, I want to create a space that will be fun for me and also fun for other musicians and fun for children.”
Ozaukee Talent is the realization of that “dream passion” – “a non-traditional classroom,” said Mack Reilly, “and a place of invention…a space where students could engage in their own learning and be motivated with their passion for music.”
Mack Reilly is renting a large classroom from the NSAA, where she worked for close to a decade as marketing director and in other various positions. There she will hold classes, teach private lessons in piano, guitar, voice, acting, percussion and songwriting, and host other programming that includes open houses for children to explore musical instruments and projects.
Mack Reilly is known for her involvement in promoting Grafton’s music history and runs the website paramountshome.org, which contains historical information about the Paramount Blues Company. She was also involved in establishing the Grafton Blues Festival and perpetuating the current musical theme of the downtown area. She has also directed over 100 musicals, primarily for children, including shows for the NSAA, Next Act Theatre and the Cedarburg Performing Arts Center.
“I feel like it’s time to take…what I’ve learned hands-on from teaching and incorporate that into a learning educational environment,” she said. “I find that creative people learn in different ways – they need more opportunities to explore, more opportunities to invent and be part of the process and hands-on. I want to encourage that spirit of innovation in young children and among songwriters who are in this area.”
Nationally known blogger and Cedarburg resident Alexandra Rosas describes Mack Reilly, who taught all three of her sons piano, as “the one who ignited my children’s love of music.”
“I met Angie a decade ago when looking for a music teacher to supplement my children’s homeschooling,” Rosas said, adding that, in Mack Reilly, she found “not just a music teacher, but someone who opened the door to the lifelong joy of music for my children.”
“My son is now 20 years old now and continues to play piano, because of Angie’s tender encouragement.”
It is shaping up to be a busy spring for Mack Reilly, who will also be appearing in the cast of Listen to Your Mother Milwaukee at Alverno College’s Pitman Theatre on Sunday, May 1. The show features live readings by local writers on the subject of motherhood, and is co-produced by Rosas.
Mack Reilly auditioned on a last-minute whim for the show, she said, and said she “battled” with the idea of telling a personal story about motherhood. Her piece centers around the experience of being the mother of a son who has been diagnosed with (a mental illness).
“I’m used to acting, I’ve been a performer in theater for a long time, and the idea of telling a personal story was a little intimidating, because when you’re an actor, you’re that person, and if people don’t like you, they don’t like that (character),” she said. “I’m hoping to give hope to other moms who are dealing with children and mental illness. I’m hoping that talking about it will help other people to talk about it as well.”
“We knew within minutes that her piece on her son’s mental illness was an essential one to have in our show,” said Rosas. “Her honest and down-to-earth account will provide the same love and encouragement to parents facing a similar challenge as she brought to her music students.”
“It’s common for me to teach children who have ADHD or are on the autism spectrum, or to have teens who are bipolar. I encounter a lot of youth with these types of issues, because they do a lot of times tend to do very well in the arts,” she said. “Another motivating factor for me creating this is also for my son. He’s gifted musically, and I want to create a space where he can write music and I can write music. Music is therapeutic for anybody that has mental illness.”