When Danielle Schuh was a student at Lincoln Trail Elementary School, she enjoyed the annual Mahomet-Seymour PTO HANDS Around the World event.
And now, as a senior studying Psychology with a concentration in Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Illinois, Schuh was able to share her love of music with Lincoln Trail students during the HANDS Around the World closing ceremony last Friday.
“I also volunteered to help with HANDS Around the World in high school, so it’s interesting to have had three very different roles in that event: student, volunteer, and featured artist,” Schuh said.
Schuh has been a part of the University of Illinois Steel Drum band since her freshman year, when she studied Percussion Performance.
Through the course offered each fall and spring semester to any University of Illinois student, Schuh was able to build on the percussion skills she learned during her time in the Mahomet-Seymour High School band under the leadership of Band Director Michael Stevens and Carmen Knight, who left the district shortly after Schuh graduated.
“The music program at Mahomet-Seymour is very high quality, especially when you compare it to various other high school programs across the state,” she said. “It’s rare to find such a large community of mature musicians and good kids.”
Schuh was drawn to percussion during her time at Lincoln Trail because of the variety and complexity of the instruments within the section.
“Rhythm is something I’ve been interested in for awhile, since I’m a huge nerd and it’s basically dividing time into different fractions,” she said. “I think growing up with a dad who plays percussion, specifically drum kit, has just naturally drawn me to it.”
Because of the steel drum’s diverse sounds and the band’s unique quality, Schuh decided to participate in the Steel Drum band all four years of college.
“Steel drums are a unique and delicate instrument, which is ironic because they’re made of metal oil drums,” Schuh said. “The music is also generally more fun and exciting in my opinion; I like that I get to practice improvisation and jazz with this group as well.”
Since switching her focus from music to neuroscience, Schuh has had to cut back on other bands she was in, including I-Pan, which is a smaller independent group comprised of UIUC music students that performs in the Champaign-Urbana area.
Since Schuh will graduate in the spring, the HANDS performance is also her last performance with the University of Illinois Steel Drum band.
Giving back to Mahomet-Seymour music students is not something that is new for Schuh. She worked with the Marching Bulldog drumline for three years before she left to focus on her research.
“I loved teaching; it’s so fun to share your love for music with a younger generation; you hope that you inspire them to want to spread their passion for the arts onto others as well. I think education and support for the performing arts are really important.”
Before she leaves her academic career as a musician, she has a few words of advice for local students who are also interested in the performing arts:
“Even if you don’t study music in school, still find a reason to play. Music is art, and any/all contributions are valuable and important,” she said. “College can be a challenging and demanding environment; it’s important to hold onto the activities that you enjoy. For those studying music, take any opportunity to play or be immersed in the music scene. You’ll learn so much and find your own artistic voice so much quicker.”