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"Through this whole thing I've learned so much about how many students are dedicated to him," she says. "It brings tears to my eyes. Whenever he was walking around kids would want to talk with him and follow him and say 'hi' and they'd send him letters about what he's done for them in their lives."
Douglas currently spends most of his days in speech therapy and physical therapy. The expressive aphasia caused by the stroke left him virtually speechless, at first. As he's begun to speak again, he has trouble expressing the words he wants to say, even though he can form them in his mind. Mild ataxia has made it difficult to balance and he has trouble with motor skills in one arm.
"There's no cure for aphasia," says Judy. "That part of his brain will always be damaged, but your brain has the ability to rewire itself to compensate. The rewiring is the big unknown and he is making tremendous progress."
UMEM is also making steady progress. At the moment, the program's kicking off the last three shows of its Saturday Night Shuffle, a concert series at Sean Kelly's that showcases local artists like Three Eared Dog and Kung Fu Kongress. On Saturday, May 7, UMEM will conclude the month-long annual Spring Thaw event with a festival, which features local band High Voltage, vendors, games and nonprofit booths. All of the shows are run entirely by students.
One of those students, UMEM senior Ashley Barber, recently finished working in Los Angeles with Elias Arts, the largest music production company in the nation. He started as an intern but eventually ended up in a paid position working for the company's president, wrangling recording sessions with stars like Annie Lennox. Climbing the ladder, he says, had everything to do with the budgeting and media skills he learned from Douglas and UMEM speakers.
"I used to think these places in the entertainment business were impenetrable," he says. "But it's actually not an unattainable dream."
Despite big opportunities in L.A., Barber returned to finish his senior year in Missoula. He aims to get the UMEM certificate as well as a film degree. But mostly, he says, it's the hands-on work he's doing for Sean Kelly's and Spring Thaw that will give him a leg up if he eventually returns to California.
"People ask you about it," he says. "Instead of saying, 'I studied it,' like you would for most classes, you can say you actually did it. Yeah, I've produced an event. Yes, we threw a party and it was very successful and we got sponsors."
Besides strong student support, Grimmsmann attributes UMEM's relative stability to strong alumni support and a faculty and staff that understands the program's mission. It's all thanks to Douglas, she says. He essentially made it an easy vehicle to steer.
"It's been a long, rough ride," says Grimmsmann. "But we've been pulling together. Between the chair and the dean and myself we've come up with some great changes that will actually move things forward for the next academic year. It's been a trying time, but there's no question the program is going to be okay. Every success, every happy ending comes with the expense and pain of a lot of hard work and heartache."
At the end of this month, Douglas will head to a treatment center in Chicago to further his recovery. As a send-off, a large group of his former and current students of the entertainment program are putting on a "Rock N Rally" concert through their newly founded group, Friends of Scott Douglas. The show features three bands including Darah Fogerty, whom Douglas chose to be the first artist for the program's popular Artist Development class.
Behind the scenes, of course, are dozens of other entertainment students who have been busy booking, promoting and organizing the event—using the skills they learned from Douglas about the important details and, now, finally, getting the chance to return the favor.
The Rock N Rally kicks off Friday, April 15, at the Wilma Theater at 8 PM. $10/$6 advance, available at the Wilma box office, Wordens Market, Rockin Rudy's, The Adams Center, and The Source in the University Center.