Getting Personal is an email Q&A with a local personality. Here, Melissa Merli chats with Jake Schumacher, manager for Urbana Public Television and a musician. Getting Personal appears first in print, in Sunday editions of The News-Gazette. In the Feb. 5 newspaper, we'll have a chat with Urbana police Chief Patrick Connolly.
What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?
The alarm is set for 7. Ideally, I make coffee, sit in a tub of hot water and read a seed catalog until it's time to check the weather, get dressed and head out.
What did you have for lunch today? Where? With whom?
A piece of quiche and a scone from Common Ground Food Co-Op while working at my desk, alongside my colleague and friend, UPTV production coordinator Jason Liggett.
Best high school memory.
Because I had a heart murmur from having scarlet fever when I was young, I spent every gym period in the school library, where I chewed my way through the complete works of Charles Dickens and a whole lot more. That was heaven for a kid who grew up loving to read.
Tell me about your favorite pair of shoes.
A very old and completely comfortable pair of Keens that I have been trying to keep alive through regular and massive applications of glue.
What does a perfect Sunday afternoon include?
Working in the garden on a partly cloudy, 70-degree day. Having a few tunes. Listening to a (World Series Champions!) Cards game on the radio.
Was there one book you read as a child that you still cherish? Own? Read?
We utilized the public library extensively, but I have in recent years acquired as many books as possible by the authors I loved most as a child: Walter Brooks, Hugh Lofting, L. Frank Baum, Madeleine L'Engle, Eleanor Cameron and Hilda Lewis. From a slightly later period, I still have my original, well-thumbed copies of 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings.'
Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?
I'd like to make a pilgrimage to a township outside Foxford in Mayo in Ireland, where my friend and mentor Mike Hoban was born and raised and where his ashes are scattered. And I'd like to visit my old teacher Tom McKeown at the B&B he runs in Quebec, with whom I correspond but haven't seen in ages.
Tell me about your favorite pet.
Each one is perfect, of course, so just the two most recent. Aggie, who died last spring, was maybe the most perfectly feline cat in the world, Bast reincarnate. And Ciao, who survives, has the biggest personality of any cat I've known.
Have you discovered that you are becoming like one of your parents? Which one and how?
I'd like to think I have inherited my mother's kind heart and compassion for others, in addition to a difficulty in throwing anything away.
What would you order for your last meal?
Something extremely difficult to find and time-consuming to prepare.
What can you not live without?
Irish music, a vegetable garden, interesting wine, friends old and new.
Whom do you have on your iPod?
I work professionally with digital media all day, every day, but I don't own an iPod and remain somewhat analog in my personal life. (Can I tell you about my 78s?) The music I'm listening to most recently are recordings by Andrew MacNamara, a wonderful box player who will perform in Urbana in March as part of the Pipers Hut Concert Series, and by the late Joe Madden, whose tunes we've been learning at the Bentley's session.
What's the happiest memory of your life?
It's difficult to have a hierarchy of happiness when one's life has been so fortunate. Aside from many personal moments, I have very fond memories of my community radio days in Missouri and Alaska — many of the most important relationships in my life originated in those places and times. Meeting Jim Jordan (who portrayed Fibber McGee on radio) when I was director of the Midwest Radio Theater Workshop and producing the 'Haven Bay' radio serials at Raven Radio in Sitka are some standouts.
If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite?
These are tough questions! I know there are tons of celebrities it'd be interesting to meet, but the number 'three' brings first to mind my friends Jim, Kate and Maggie Smith, who farm outside Shelbyville, Ind. Funny, smart and kind folks, great conversationalists, great farmers, great musicians, lovers of real homegrown food — some of my favoritest people.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
This quote comes from a Dr. Mixon of St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City and was a great gift to me from Edie and Leandra Baker: 'I choose to be happy. No one has the power to make me unhappy but me. I will grant that power to no other human being.'
What's your best piece of advice?
If you want to play traditional music, constantly listen only to players who grew up in that tradition and learn from them by ear, not from written notes. It's a language, and you want to learn to speak it like a native speaker.
What was your first job, and how much did you make an hour?
I was a full-time VISTA worker at KOPN community radio in Columbia, Mo., assisting low-income and underprivileged citizens in organizing and producing radio programs reflecting their issues and needs. I believe our stipend was $1.65 an hour.
What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?
There were two: pursuing broadcasting as a vocation and music as an avocation, instead of the other way around, based on how little enjoyment I saw many professional musicians derive from their music, as opposed to professional broadcasters who always seemed to love their jobs; and moving from radio to television when I joined the city of Urbana and UPTV, which enabled me to escape a toxic environment in my last position while returning to real community-engaged service in a friendly, supportive and productive workplace.
Do you have a bad habit? What is it?
I indulge in a lot of wordplay, which, although true, some people regard as a work of affliction.
How do you handle a stressful situation?
I strive to remember my three favorite proverbs. From the French: The sign of wisdom is a continual cheerfulness. From the Irish: Things are never so bad that they can't get worse. And from a Chinese restaurant fortune cookie I once got: Enjoy life — this is not a dress rehearsal!