By Bridgette M. Redman
Pasadena Weekly Contributing Writer
In her mission to make live music accessible to everyone in radical ways, Rachael Worby has recruited three board members who are passionate about the work she does.
MUSE/IQUE, a member-supported performing arts organization that creates engaging live music experiences, tries to dissolve barriers between performers and audiences in more creative manners by reaching out to underserved communities.
Joining its newest board are three members: Barbara Bice, Christine Swanson and Jonathan Weedman. All were personally recruited by Worby and are excited about what they can bring to the musical group to support its robust growth.
Bice cheers organization since its start
Pasadena resident Bice has a long background in education and nonprofit governance. Her list of volunteer work is lengthy — from director of volunteer services for the World Cup in 1994 to Scripps College board service to the founding board chair of True Connection.
Her involvement with MUSE/IQUE stretches back years, to its very beginning.
“Rachael is just a natural teacher, and I was in education,” Bice said. “The way she is able to bring music to diverse audiences is just astonishing. I never come away from a concert where I don’t learn something.”
She’s attended their concerts for 10 years, and she said she’d never heard anyone else talk about community and partnerships the way that Worby does.
“If you’re a member of MUSE/IQUE, you’re investing in the community,” Bice said. “I think that’s a wonderful phrase to keep in mind. She works with adults, with kids who are challenged, and at least 15 organizations in town where she does educational outreach.”
As someone who attends a lot of musical performances, Bice said she hasn’t seen any other audiences as diverse as the ones at MUSE/IQUE. She says they manage to be kid friendly, adult friendly and make sure no one is left out.
Bice is not a musician, and she says that she can’t hold a note or play an instrument. What she can do for the music organization is help it make connections. She has lived in Pasadena for 53 years, and she said she is looking forward to connecting MUSE/IQUE with her acquaintances.
She also hopes she can help find sponsors who will support the programs that Worby offers through the organization.
Swanson brings artistic talents to board
Serving on MUSE/IQUE’s board is a change of pace for Swanson.
Not only was she unfamiliar with MUSE/IQUE until last year, but she told Worby she was an artist, not a “sitting on boards” type person.
Worby sought out Swanson last year to film a series of concerts that MUSE/IQUE was putting on during the pandemic.
“This is not something I normally do,” Swanson said.
“I work in a narrative space as a writer, director and producer. But I’ve done documentaries in the past, and it is within my purview of storytelling. I’m a lover of music, so the connection was easy. The idea was fun, and quite honestly, I was not doing anything in the pandemic.”
She wasn’t expecting what happened next. She was blown away by Worby’s working style and the organization that she had created.
“What I saw was someone who was insanely and prolifically in love with all areas of music,” Swanson said. “I learned so much from her lessons and talks about how music connects to who we are and our past and our present. I was instantly curious and smitten with MUSE/IQUE, and Rachael and I thought this was a cool organization.”
She also discovered she and Worby are kindred spirits.
Swanson earned an MFA in Film from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. CNN called her one of the most promising filmmakers to emerge from NYU’s graduate film program since Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee. She develops, writes and directs movie projects for HBO Films, Magnolia Pictures, State Street Pictures, TV One and Faith Filmworks. She has won numerous awards and now teaches filmmaking.
“What Rachael does in music — performing with the goal and purpose of connecting music to the community — is pretty much what I do as a storyteller. We do the same thing in different formats,” Swanson said.
Swanson, her husband and kids have lived in Pasadena on and off for more than 13 years. Her husband serves on many boards, and Swanson asked Worby if she didn’t want him instead. Worby assured her she’d chosen the right Swanson.
She also is very much behind the desire to make MUSE/IQUE’s curriculum and programs available to all people.
“I know exactly what that means,” Swanson said. “MUSE/IQUE easily appeals to a certain segment of our population that are typically well-heeled and supporters of the arts. But what MUSE/IQUE has to offer is really of value to people in all socioeconomic stratas, and I want to help push that agenda even more. I’m not only an artist; I’m a mother, a wife, a Black woman, an Asian woman. I come from Detroit, Michigan, truly an inner city. I was able to forge a career in the arts coming from a poorly resourced community and go on to get a great education.”
Weedman brings musical experience
Weedman, the only one of the three new board members who does have a music background, also waxes poetic about Worby and her accomplishments.
As consultant, executive and choir director, Weedman has more than 30 years of professional experience working in the corporate, nonprofit and community sectors.
Like Worby, Weedman knows what it is like to manage a nonprofit arts organization. He was the sixth executive director for the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. While there, he helped to strengthen the organization’s infrastructure and fundraising performance and advance their artistic achievements. A lifelong resident of Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appointed him as a cultural affairs commissioner for the city of Los Angeles and was a founding chair of the Grand Park Foundation.
He also has quite the chops when it comes to serving on musical boards. He’s been on the boards of directors for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Colburn School and Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles and is chair emeritus of the Young Musicians Foundation.
Despite all that experience, he said he was thrilled when Worby asked him to be on the board, because he is impressed with everything that she does to make MUSE/IQUE a unique and robust organization.
Have a few minutes to spare?
There are 90 (and growing) episodes of “In a Minute or Two” where Artistic Director Rachael Worby presents in 1 to 3 minutes a genre, theme or song; explains it; puts it in context and then has one of her artists play.
“It’s like a mini music course,” said new board member Barbara Bice. “It’s just stunning.”