When she was young, Teagan attended her brother’s orchestra concert where they played “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” It was at that moment that she claims she knew she had to play the violin. After exploring her interests with the instrument and trying to convince her parents to let her play, she finally enrolled in a Suzuki strings program, and had lessons on theory, jazz, and classical performance. It was in high school that she was able to develop the interdisciplinary aspects of jazz and classical technique, which she enjoys putting to practice today.
One of the most influential experiences yet with playing the violin was in her youth orchestra in high school, when she was asked to be a soloist when the orchestra travelled to Italy. “That experience of standing as a representative of my hometown and my ensemble while performing for—and speaking with—a foreign audience was so much fun that I knew I wanted to be a performer.”
After coming to the University of Michigan, it was clear to Teagan that she did truly want to be a performer. However, this came with a lot of “and”s and “but”s. There was a quick realization after getting to U-M that classical performance was not the only path she wanted to take in her journey to become a performer. “Shortly after arriving, I realized that classical music wasn’t quite enough for me so I took steps to continue my jazz education. I never doubted that I wanted to be a performer but even now I’m not really sure what shape my future will take!” Along with exploring a jazz education, Teagan has also participated in administrative internships with the Buffalo Philharmonic, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. While these experiences solidified that she does not want to be an administrator, it is clear that her work with multiple genres of music and her experience in entrepreneurship have helped shape her successful organization: Red Shoe Company.
“Red Shoe Company” (RSC) is an “all-arts collective,” meaning a “group of people who share the common goal of uniting a community through trans-disciplinary art performances.” The company aims to address many social issues through the art of performance, such as themes of homelessness and environmental sustainability. Even more-so, they are looking to curate events that are safe places for people to come together and celebrate the performing arts. The company was conceived after one of Teagan’s concerts, the “experimental ‘continuous flow’ show”: a 50-minute long non-stop performance. The show received a lot of positive feedback, encouraging her to continue this sort of performance with her group. The now-called “Red Shoe Company” went on to their first performance: a benefit concert for the Coalition on Temporary Shelter in Detroit.
The motto of RSC is “Be What You Love.” Just as she loves red shoes, Teagan decided to name the company after something she really loves. While it thrived on growing dreams and aspirations for so long, it was necessary for the company to seek funding to really get going and continue with more performance opportunities. She reached out to the SMTD’s EXCEL for assistance, and with mentorship and guidance from the EXCEL team, the company was able to receive the help it needed.
“I think EXCEL does a great job of making their resources available. All of the people in the office are open and amiable. They go out of their way to make sure that students can make contact with visiting guests and really shape their events to student needs.” Excel helped to make RSC’s first concert in Detroit a complete success. While they did receive funding, the most helpful thing that EXCEL did for the company was to say “no” multiple times beforehand, and offer positive feedback so Teagan and her company could grow into something much bigger than what was imagined to be possible.
With this company just starting and really hitting the ground running, it is expected that there will be moments of great success, yet also moments of great weakness. “Sometimes it feels like it’s all moments of weakness!” Teagan explains, “You just have to cling to your values and do your best. Once you get into the mindset of everything as a sort of battle, it becomes fun.”
As other students start looking into starting their own company or group, it is always great to have EXCEL to look to for guidance in the process. Trying something new can sometimes seem impossible, but some of the greatest successes start with what feels like the impossible. As Teagan recommends: “Submit, submit, submit! Even if you don’t think you’re ready, turn it in and get feedback!” Whether it’s just another idea that popped into your head as you were singing in the shower or it’s a rough sketch you did one day while bored in class, the smallest ideas really can have the greatest potential.
Outside of running the RSC with her team members. Teagan likes to get outdoors as much as she can. She enjoys running, martial arts, or just taking a nice walk. “Time away from the instrument is important and often where I flesh out a lot of my ideas.” Even though she is a graduating senior, Teagan plans to keep RSC close to her and surround herself with more supportive artists who will help the company grow.
The RSC owes its thanks to a violinist who wanted to explore, experiment, and express new ideas in a creative way to help the community. The University of Michigan’s SMTD has one of the best resources for finding help exploring your own new ideas, and it’s right at your fingertips. Search for “EXCEL” on the SMTD’s website, or find more contact information on the Blog homepage to help spread and edit any blossoming, exciting ideas, or to get help in making them reality.
Teagan Faran graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Violin Performance from SMTD in May 2018. She is highly involved within the Southeastern Michigan musical community, and formed the group “Red Shoe Company” to expand her endeavors to give back to the community and address social issues through art and performance. Red Shoe Company performed recently with the U-M’s Artist-in-Residence, Tanner Porter, at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA). Red Shoe Company was supported by the SMTD’s Performing Arts EXCELerato in Winter 2018, and Teagan has continued to grow the ensemble and expand performance opportunities throughout the community. Upon completion of their EXCELerator Fellowship, ensemble members toured Mexico as part of OperaMaya in May 2018. Teagan previously served as one of UMS’ 21st C. Artist Interns (with Jazz at Lincoln Center). She currently serves as an Overture Teaching Assistant at the Sphinx Organization and was recently awarded a Fulbright to research folk music traditions in Argentina (Winter 2019).