Ben McNaboe’s best friend is the calendar app on his iPhone. Without it, he’d probably still be capable of juggling the multiple moving parts of his life — he just might be a little less resolutely cheerful about it.
“As soon as a I get an email, I try to answer it right away. As soon as I get a homework assignment, I try to finish it right away,” said McNaboe, 21, a Yarmouth native and senior music education major at the University of Maine. “I have to schedule down time for myself. That probably sounds ridiculous. I’m just really bad at saying no to people.”
McNaboe has been music director for high school theater productions, including “Little Shop of Horrors” last fall at Hermon High School. He’s also a music director at Stages Performing Arts Academy in South Portland, working with students ages 10-17.
And next Friday, Jan. 17, he’ll lead a 45-person orchestra and nearly 40 singers in a fully student-produced night of music, featuring classics from Rodgers & Hammerstein, set for 7:30 p.m. at Hauck Auditorium on the UMaine campus in Orono.
It will be the largest student-run performing arts production at UMaine in more than a decade; it’s also a benefit for the university’s School of Performing Arts to enable students to take more recitals, concerts and theatrical productions on tour across the state.
“In talking with Laura Artesani and Liz Downing [two SPA professors], we noted that the band kids don’t go to University Singers concerts. The orchestra students don’t go to band concerts. Theater students don’t go to recitals,” said McNaboe. “What if we planned something where everyone in the entire School of Performing Arts could work together? And what if we made it a fundraiser for the school, as a motivator?”
McNaboe has always been an overachiever. Growing up in Yarmouth, his parents, Michael and Melissa McNaboe, weren’t particularly musical themselves, but they were very supportive — though his uncle, Tony McNaboe, is the former drummer for Rustic Overtones. By the age of 10, Ben was playing saxophone and clarinet, and learning piano. He cites his middle school band teacher, Brad Ciechomski, as a mentor.
In high school, he began directing his fellow students in different ensembles, and for spirit week his senior year, he arranged a Jackson Five medley for band, orchestra and voice. He rented confetti cannons for the performance.
“I always dream big, what can I say?” said McNaboe.
Though he initially went to college in Rhode Island to study to be a geriatric nurse practitioner — McNaboe worked in memory care at an assisted-living facility throughout high school — he soon transferred to UMaine to study music education once he realized he did not want to live a life without music.
“I could feel its absence in my life, and I knew that I just had to make it my career,” said McNaboe.
The idea for the concert performance has been nearly a year in the making. In previous years, the School of Performing Arts has hosted smaller Broadway revues in smaller venues on campus.
McNaboe would have no such thing — he wanted a big stage, such as the one at Hauck.
SPA staff “suggested doing it in the Union, but I said ‘No, no, no, let’s do this for real,’” said McNaboe, who plans to attend graduate school for orchestral conducting and musical theater accompaniment. “Let’s rent the rights to a real show. Let’s get everyone involved. Let’s make this a real, professional event.”
McNaboe chose Rodgers & Hammerstein over, say, Andrew Lloyd Webber or Cole Porter, because this particular concert program features a full orchestra and challenging instrumentation, and because he believes the music is simply timeless.
“The audience for their music is huge. All generations can relate to it,” said McNaboe. “Their characters are not all fluff. They have darkness as well as musical theater fantasy. It is music for the ages. Everyone sounds just beautiful singing and playing it, too.”
Tickets for the concert, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17, at Hauck Auditorium, are $22 for the general public, and are available at the Collins Center box office, or by calling 800-622-TIXX.