Aubrey (Thompke) Damron

Spotlight: Aubrey (Thompke) Damron


The YPC’s Spotlight Series is back, and the Youngish Professionals are honored to welcome the very talented Aubrey (Thompke) Damron to the orange chair – to share more about herself and her work in bringing the historic Wagner’s Block ballroom to life. So, without further adieu, the spotlight is on!

YPC: Hey, Aubrey! Welcome to the orange chair and thank you for your time.

Aubrey: Thanks for the invite, YPC!

YPC: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do?

Aubrey: I am a self-employed freelance artist born and raised in Marshall, MI. I studied art and psychology at both NMU and Olivet College.

YPC: Has art always been part of your DNA?

Aubrey: It has had my heart for as long as I can remember, and it was always my dream to be an artist when I grew up. I decided to go full-time with my craft just over 7 years ago, and my parents have been incredibly supportive of me pursuing my dream throughout my life. I owe them so much for encouraging me and instilling in me a strong work ethic, and it feels great to have them as my biggest fans. I do maintain a part-time job serving and bartending at Mike’s Place in Marshall, while still running my own business for my art.

YPC: Busy lady, and a strong shout out to Mike’s Place! What type of art do you primarily focus on?

Aubrey: I do a lot of commission work with a specialty in portraiture and non-traditional landscapes. My original work is typically surreal in nature and often weird, but I love the weird. For much of last year, I have been focused on work at the EastEnd Ballroom while completing some commissions.

YPC: To say we are excited to see the final product and throw an event in the ballroom is an understatement. It is SUCH an incredible space and treasure. What is your history specifically with EESG?

Aubrey: Having been a local artist for many years now, my peers and community have recognized me for the work I do and often reach out to me for things I would be a good fit for.  This led to my direct connection with Eastend. I have had work in one of the shows there and have been an assistant to Kat in the after-school art program at Harrington Elementary in Albion. My connection to the ballroom project stemmed from my working relationship and friendship with Jen Darling and Michael Peck, and them bestowing on me the chance to be a larger part of it. I appreciate them both so much for having faith in me.

YPC: How did you get involved with the ballroom project?

Aubrey: My name had been brought up to Michael Peck for a project he needed a few good artists for, and our initial introduction was all that was needed for us to know how well we would work together. The rest is history, so to speak. Amongst a few other projects I had been invited to work under him for, the ballroom has been the largest so far. I was fortunate enough to be a part of the team that made the wallpaper for the ballroom and also the team that hung the wallpaper. The work began on the foyer and, at the start, I was one of a few helping hands assisting Michael – as much of the work at that point he was doing himself. Then COVID hit and things changed dramatically. I remember the conversation he and I had about me taking over as lead on-site…my excitement for such an amazing opportunity was followed by an immediate flood of anxiousness that will never be forgotten. I knew it was my chance to leave my mark…and in my hometown no less. His encouragement that this was my time to shine still rings in my ears.

YPC: Too cool, and what an amazing mentor to have. What exactly is your role?

Aubrey: My role in the project is On-Site Lead Artist, working directly under the instruction of Michael Peck and collectively with Jen Darling and our other artists. I ensure the artistry and all of the operations run as smoothly as possible, to make Michael’s vision of the space come alive. I do the leg work for the materials and helping to plan out the order of operations. I have been fortunate enough to do some of the design work in creating such a magical space, and for an extended amount of time was the only artist working on site. I am also responsible for keeping our artists on task and that our output of work is of high quality.

(The Painting Team) Back L to R: Ray Swaney, Ashton Thompke, Jason Thompke, Heather Meyer
Front L to R: Aubrey Damron, Meagan Wildt Center on Ipad: Michael Peck

YPC: Would you be willing to tell us a bit about the rest of the ballroom team?

Aubrey: Gladly. Currently our team consists of five active artists, with four on-site and Michael being remote. My present team consists of one, Meagan Wildt, a friend and talented regional artist who also works with Eastend assisting Kat Whaley in our after-school (A.S.A.P.) class teaching kids the joys of art. Around mid-January, I brought on two friends and fellow artists, Ray Swaney and Heather Meyer, both graduates of MHS and career artists themselves. Ray is self-employed, widely skilled, and talented in various forms of art. His versatility and problem-solving skills have been quite valuable to the project. Heather balances a busy family schedule, her own work, and her contribution of talent to our project executing fantastic detail and focus.

I have also been fortunate enough to work alongside my brother, Jason Thompke, owner and operator of PLC home solutions. He is a jack of all trades and has been an incredible aid in helping me access some of the harder-to-reach areas by building platforms and setting up and moving scaffolding for me. His son Ashton also has had a small hand in the painting and is eager to learn more.

Previously, we had a contribution of work by the skilled Ryan Cook in painting the faux marble. My husband, Joshua Damron, has also assisted me in much of the technical layouts and execution of work that involved a lot of measuring and mapping out, a welcome addition of help with something that isn’t my strong suit.

Laura Valentine, another career artist with fantastic talent in painting, and Bonnie Peck were on deck at the start of some of the faux marble painting and ceiling work on-site, and are the other two creators (including myself and Michael) of the beautifully handmade wallpaper that hangs in the ballroom. The wallpaper was hung by Darrel and Diana Hawthorne of Dandy Improvements and me. These two individuals I think could create anything you can think of with their hands and have extensive knowledge in restoration and wallpaper hanging. It was such a treat to work with them.

I can’t say this enough. I am SO fortunate to know so many talented individuals and to work well with them. It is a joy to be surrounded by inspirational imagery and people.

YPC: What have been the most challenging, fun, and rewarding things about the project?

Aubrey: The biggest challenge has been having Michael teaching me from afar. As we know, in our current state of things, much is being done virtually. Making this happen effectively to learn technical methods, some of them being things I have never attempted before, has been at times seemingly impossible. Giving him virtual tours and daily briefings to stay abreast of the project takes time and dedication with long hours of working. But I do best under pressure, so having all of these challenges for me is welcome. I know it will all be worth it.

YPC: What an incredible experience and opportunity. Anything else you would like to share?

Aubrey: I’m excited to say it looks like we may be opening the 3rd floor to the public as early as June! In many ways, working in this space with so much turmoil going on in the world has been a welcome respite. Art has always remained my saving grace. Dedicating myself to my craft and honing in on my skills is proving to be the most rewarding time of my life, and I am forever grateful to be leaving my mark on something that I hope our community will cherish for years to come. I have put much of my heart and soul into this space and even long after my name has been forgotten, I hope my art lives on to bring others joy.

YPC: Your legacy will definitely live on, Aubrey, and we can’t wait to share the joy of taking your, Michael, and your team’s art in over and over again with our greater community. That ballroom will be a treasure for generations!

Aubrey: Thank you for sharing that, YPC, and for this opportunity to chat. It’s been great.

YPC: That it has, and thank you too!

We’ll be back soon with another edition of our Spotlight Series, but until then..

Stay safe. Stay socially distanced. Check on loved ones and neighbors. Howl at the moon often. Find new ways to support your local businesses and nonprofits. Exercise and eat healthy. Try new hobbies. Share your positive energy with as many people as possible. #BeYoungish. #Choose Marshall.

Know of someone with a unique story to share? Please let us know! Our spotlight series line-up remains strong (you guys make it easy on us), but that doesn’t mean we’re not looking for new professionals to highlight in creative ways and to bring into the YPC. So, if anyone (yourself included) comes to mind, let, us, know: theyoungishprofessionals (at) gmail (dot) com

Jennifer Conley Darling

Spotlight: Jennifer Conley Darling


In a time when darkness somehow feels even darker, and positive news feels more important than ever, the YPC will be turning on all of the lights it can to help brighten your day. Our Spotlight is one of those lights, and it is a pleasure to cast its direction towards a long-time friend and founding member, Jennifer Conley Darling.

Whether it is through shining light on the youth of our community and helping them find their voice and new confidence through theater, or literally turning the lights on in a historic ballroom for the first time since 1910, her energy is undeniable. But let’s not steal the stage from her. Jennifer, without further adieu, the orange chair is yours.

YPC: Jen! It’s great to see you sitting safely in the orange chair from what appears to be your backyard!

Jen:Thanks for having me, YPC! And it’s great to see you sitting safely on the other side of this screen too!

YPC: Before we dive into your story, we’d like to let you know that we may be bouncing around a bit, because at times we have found ourselves bouncing off the walls in this new, COVID-19 world we live. It has turned so many things and so many lives upside down, and we hope this conversation helps you, us, and Marshall feel a little more right-side up.

Jen: Calls like this have definitely helped to keep me grounded. My mom, my family and my friends – we’re all trying to keep each other sane. I am reaching my arms through this screen and out to everyone who is reading this to hug you all.

YPC: Thank you for that, and great hug! Let’s start from the very beginning…what city and state did you take your first steps in?

Jen: Welp, I was born in St Petersburg, Florida and lived there until I was five years old. Then mom and I packed up and moved north to Marshall to join the family hardware business.

YPC: We love the visual of 5 year old Jennifer running through the old hardware store downtown! Is Marshall where you feel you first hit your stride?

Jen: It certainly gave me the foundation I needed, at least one that would help me even be in the ballpark of hitting a ‘stride,’ haha! But it’s more family related. My first clue as to what I could do in life came when I saw my mother on stage for the very first time. I was seven years old and she was playing Vera in a production of Mame. I saw her embody another person on stage and it was a revelation – for a seven year old anyway. From there, I knew theater was what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be for the rest of my life.

Art and theater bring two communities together

YPC: What an awesome thing to be able to share with your child! When we think about taking the stage like that, it takes an awesome level of strength and confidence to step into some else’s shoes and portray them in front of an audience.

Jen: I really never thought of it like that. Being on stage always felt like home – it was natural for me. Yes, I liked the applause, but it was more about it feeling like I was truly expressing myself. To this day, when I’m on stage, I feel more honest and more connected to my own emotions than I do in my everyday life.

YPC: What do you feel is your greatest strength and what is it rooted in?

Jen: Geez – hard question! I guess if I had to articulate my greatest strength, it would be my ability to make things happen. Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs and small business owners gave me direct insight into what it takes to get things done. I’ve never been afraid of hard work, following up, asking hard questions, nor of failing. I had an acting teacher who told me ‘you can never fail if you’ve put 110% into everything you do. There is always success in that.’

YPC: That’s a solid perspective for any chapter in life. That mindset paired with your ability to get things done must have been a game changer when you were living in NYC.

Jen: It really was. After moving to New York City at the age of 18 and graduating from an acting conservatory in Manhattan, I found myself on soap operas and doing independent films. But after a couple of years, those opportunities started becoming less and less. For most, life in New York City requires you to work more hours and more jobs just to make ends meet. I was no exception. So, I got a temp job at American Express which paid the bills and became part of the founding group of terraNOVA Collective, an arts organization that focused on creating new plays and cultivating new artists. With those two full-time jobs, I found myself excelling at both because of that ability to make things happen and not being afraid to ask questions. And I found myself incredibly fulfilled.

YPC: Two full-time jobs! What a grind.

Jen: It was, but I was loving it! In 2011, I finally took a step back and realized I had been working that grind for over a decade and said, “Well, this has to change”. In prior years, I had also been getting short-term gigs doing stage management and event planning. An opportunity to work as part-time staff at an NYC university came up and, well, I got the job. I left American Express after 14 years and started Darling & Company Theatrical and Event Management. Now, keep in mind, I was also still running terraNOVA too, so I just swapped one full time job for another, but hey, at least I was my own boss.

Private party in Connecticut with WWII theme

YPC: Ha! We love how subtly you inserted another short-term job and the creation of Darling & Company in the midst of all of that. Well done. What was working on event planning in NYC like? It must have been wild!

Jen: It was thrilling. I got to work with Fortune 500 companies, the extremely wealthy, and, even sometimes, celebrities. I was show-calling big concerts with Tony Bennett, John Mellancamp and Katy Perry, to name a few; managing all things production for large scale festivals; and putting together galas for global non-profits.

YPC: Those are some huge names and some massive events. We have to believe that carried a little bit of stress with it.

Jen: It certainly did, but I, for whatever reason, I thrive in those environments, and the fact I am calm and cool in the most stressful of situations seemed to set me apart in the industry. Next thing I knew, word of mouth had spread and I found myself working across the country doing all sorts of events!

YPC: We’re still caught up on the scale of this work! How did you manage all of this?

Jen: I hired a small, but mighty staff. It’s fun to look back on now. We all worked out of my apartment in Chelsea. Some worked specifically for terraNOVA, some for Darling & Company, some worked for both. Depending on the projects, I had anywhere from 2-10 people working with me every day. Both companies were thriving.

YPC: Wild. Here comes one of those off-the-wall bounces. When did you decide to leave NYC, and where did you land?

Jen: I finally made the decision to leave in late 2015, and it was such a strange feeling. After living in the city I loved so much for over 20 years, I started getting restless. That was never the case before. I just felt like I needed a change. Life had to be simpler somewhere else, right? I had an offer to get a two year Masters degree in California and said, “I’ll come home to Marshall for awhile”. I got home and moved into the apartment in Faye Berry’s house on the hill. After being around for a few months, it became clear that Marshall was the place I was meant to be.

Group photo from summer workshops

YPC: What do you think was the root of that feeling? That hill at Faye’s house is arguably the most unique in Marshall, but we have to believe there was something more…right?

Jen: Ha, you’re right! That is a great hill! And you’re also right that it was more than that, much more. Marshall was growing and changing in a way I never thought possible. The public schools had annexed with Albion, the businesses were thriving, many of my childhood friends had moved home with their families, and my mom was here and oh, how I missed her.

YPC: This may seem like a strange one, but do you remember where you were when you realized Marshall was meant to be your home again?

Jen: Oh, I can have some fun with this one, and it only takes one word: Oklahoma. Haha! Right when I got home, I got roped into (yes, I said it!) producing the Franke Center Children’s Theater production of Oklahoma by Miss Candi Putnam and Miss Janice Darling. Well, I fell in love. I saw these young people working their butts off on stage and having so much fun. I realized the experience I’d gained in NYC was something that could benefit these students – – and turns out, I love working with kids! Shortly after, Candi Putnam announced her retirement and I knew what a beautiful program she’d built, so I partnered with Allison Ebner, who had been working with Candi for several years already. Allison and I built a bigger vision for the Children’s Theater and the Board of Directors said yes! I had my first client locally and I knew this is where I needed to be.

YPC: Both you and Allison have done a phenomenal job with taking the reins from Candi, and continuing to grow the program to provide our youth and community new cultural opportunities. That feels like a keyword for Jennifer Conley Darling: culture.

Jen: It most certainly is, and it’s wild how it has all worked out. Between The Franke and Eastend, I feel like my neverending passion for the cultural and performing arts has mixed perfectly with my experience and work ethic. I’ve never felt more fulfilled with my work.

YPC: Having partnered with Eastend for past YPC events, we know the amount of work you and your team have put into that building – a building you have some serious childhood ties to (Jennifer’s mother’s store, V&S Variety, was located there). What was that feeling like when you first walked through the building?

Jen: When Jay Larson invited me to take a tour of the building renovations, the beauty of the work being done took my breath away. Tears came to my eyes as I remembered all the time I’d spent on the upper levels pricing inventory, playing with the costumes that were stored there by Marshall Civic Players, walking through dust, dead pigeon carcesses (gross but true) and ignoring signs that said there were weight limits and not to walk on the 3rd floor. When you look at the chandeliers hanging from those magnificent ceilings and the beautiful artwork Michael Peck and his team are adorning on the walls…it’s surreal.

YPC: What a beautiful legacy to continue and to leave this community. How close is the ballroom to being completed?

Jen: Well, we’ve actually been able to make some progress during the stay at home period. We held a virtual walk through for potential contractors and received bids for the south wall extension just over a week ago. We are closer than ever to being able to break ground, build that elevator and a whole new back end of the building! We have a bit more money to raise, but the end is in sight! We’ll be making more announcements in the coming weeks, but I’m absolutely thrilled with where the project stands today!

YPC: We are rooting for you and the Eastend team, because this is going to be yet another incredible treasure that draws people to Marshall.

Jen: It really will be! While the future remains uncertain with COVID-19, we see a future where the ballroom is being used for events every weekend, pulling new visitors into town for events and celebrations, and helping to ensure our downtown remains vibrant.

Marshall Home Tour Chairs all YPC members

YPC: Picturing a post COVID-19 celebration in such a beautiful, historic space feels real good right now.

Jen: That it does.

YPC: Alright, let’s shake things up a little bit. Are you ready? Good. Freddie Mercury or Elton John?

Jen: Oh, Freddie Mercury all the way!

YPC: Favorite movie?

Jen: Silence of the Lambs – terrifying.

YPC: Greatest mentor?

Jen: My mom. Not only because she has taught me the power of unconditional love, but also because I watched her start and run Darling & Daughter Variety. I saw her take the risk to be a business owner, and all that goes into it. Whenever a stressful situation arose, she was always calm and cool. I knew these traits were special, even as a child, and I still emulate them to this day.

YPC: Whoa, perfect.

Jen: That’s Janice for you.

YPC: Aside from cranking some Freddie Mercury, what is one thing that has brought you comfort and hope during these crazy, uncertain times?

Jen: The youth of our community. With our 9th-12th graders no longer able to take to the stage for our spring production of Clue at The Franke, we’ve now pivoted and gotten permission from the publishers to do this as a live stream event! We’ll be rehearsing through Zoom, recording and editing it, then presenting three performances as a live feed on June 4, and 5 and 6. Fingers crossed the students enjoy it and the audiences tune in to find out WhoDunnit!

YPC: Fun! And thank you and everyone associated with pulling this off. Our kids need it, our community needs it. The show must go on!

Jen: Amen!

YPC: Jen, once again, it has been a pleasure to share this time with you and some more of your story with our audience. You are wonderful, and thank you for sharing your light with us. If you don’t mind, we’d like to play a song and slowly fade it out into the night. Does that sound good?

Jen: YPC, thank you for spotlighting me. I love this community and I love being part of the YPC crew.

YPC: Alright! Take it away, Freddie!

Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” begins to play,
an awkward Zoom hug is exchanged,
and a good laugh is had by all.

Jennifer Conley Darling is the President of Darling & Company, whose clients include The Franke Center (Director of Children’s Theater & Arts Education), Eastend Studio & Gallery (Executive Director), and Youngish Professionals Committee (Vice President and founding member). She is also the Executive Director of terraNOVA Collective.

We’ll be back soon with another edition of our Spotlight Series, but until then..

Stay safe. Stay socially distanced. Check on loved ones and neighbors. Howl at the moon often. Find new ways to support your local businesses and nonprofits. Exercise and eat healthy. Try new hobbies. Share your positive energy with as many people as possible. #BeYoungish. #Choose Marshall.

Eric Ebner

Spotlight: Eric Ebner


In our latest YPC Spotlight, Eric Ebner takes to the orange chair to share his love for adventure, telling a great story, and his hometown.

Eric is an award-winning filmmaker who was raised in our very own Marshall, MI. His latest documentary, Opening the Earth: The Potato King, had its World Premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in February and is currently on the festival circuit.

Without further adieu, let’s get Eric in that orange chair and fire up this conversation!

YPC: Hey, Eric! Thanks for joining us for some coffee and taking to the orange chair, to share a little bit about your background and this latest chapter in your life.

Eric: Thanks for having me! I appreciate the support.

YPC: To kick things off, where are you originally from?

Eric: Well, I was born and raised here in Marshall, then lived in San Diego for just over 8 years. I left San Diego about 3 years ago, since then I’ve spent the majority of my time in Peru, with stints in Mexico and back home in “The Mar.”

YPC: What was one of your favorite things about growing up here in town?

Eric: Well, besides everything? That’s tough to answer. I think the support system that I had from my family and friends is something that’s always helped me. It’s easy to take risks in your life when you can always fall back on people who love and support you. Not everyone has that in their life, and it seems to be more common than not in Marshall.

YPC: What did you do after graduation?

Eric: I always wanted to do something creative, but that wasn’t paying the bills. So I worked as an immigration paralegal for a bit, then I got a job with a large diabetes company in San Diego. It was an extremely mindless, corporate existence, but I was making good money. I was living a good life but was unfulfilled creatively and professionally. I never let myself forget that it was just a stepping stone for when I could really take the plunge and follow my own passions.

YPC: So What led you to the world of storytelling and film-making?

Eric: I enjoyed photography and was good at it, but it just wasn’t enough. It seemed like I had tried all the mediums except videography, so, eventually, I just borrowed a video camera and dove in. I made a little portrait piece on my friend trying to be a hip-hop artist in San Diego, and everything seemed to fall into place in my mind. It’s like I had done so much mental practice over the years thinking about what kind of stories I would tell when I got the chance it all just poured out. I hadn’t achieved anything noteworthy yet, but I really had confidence that I could. A friend of mine and I decide to quit our jobs in San Diego and go on a surf trip throughout Mexico and Central America. I was very intentional about how I approached this trip, as I wanted it to be the beginning of the next chapter in my life. I invested in some camera equipment, and a few weeks into our journey I met Glen Horn, who is the subject of “The Bull”. The rest is history.

YPC: And a solid history it is. We were honored to have you and your film The Bull be part of our first annual Wolf Tree Film Festival last year. Could you tell our audience a little more about The Bull?

Eric: Absolutely. The Bull is a short documentary about a 69-year-old man named Glen Horn, who lives in the middle of a desert coast in Baja California, Mexico. The location is a secret surf spot among the surfing community, and Glen is a legend. He was raised in San Diego as a youth and is the perfect embodiment of the adventurous surf mentality. His connection to nature and philosophy are really inspiring to me, and I related to a lot of what he had to say. I worked on the film for about 9 months in secret, knowing I had something special. But I didn’t realize how special. My goal was to be accepted into one surf film festival. At its first film festival, The Bull won Best Documentary. At the second, it won Best Picture. Now it has been shown in over 15 countries and has won awards in the US and abroad. It’s been quite the ride and it was awesome to be able to show it at Wolf Tree.

YPC: What kind of impact did the making of this film and hanging out with Glen have on you?

Eric: Well, first and foremost, I learned so much technically in creating the film. From shooting underwater to editing a long-form video, it was a huge learning curve. You have to understand that, at this point, I was still very much an amateur filmmaker. But I wanted to understand the process from the inside out, so I taught myself every technique and skill that I needed. I really knew what I wanted the end product to look like, and I took all the time I needed to finish it. On a personal note, it was just so inspiring to see someone taking charge of their life and putting the rest of the BS to the side. Glen is so confidently focused on what he wants out of his life, and he just goes and does it. He doesn’t talk about it, he does it. His calm and contentment is contagious, he’s a great role model.

YPC: How can we see The Bull?

Eric: Anyone can buy or rent The Bull through my website or Vimeo account.

YPC: Tell us about your new film “Opening the Earth: The Potato King.”

Eric: Opening the Earth: The Potato King is a story about Julio Hancco, an ageing guardian of biodiversity in the Andes Mountain of Peru. Julio lives at around 15,000 ft above sea level, has no running water, and owns no modern farming equipment. Yet he is able to grow over 350 varieties of potatoes. The biodiversity that he maintains may be crucial to the survival of our species, which we take time to explain why in the film. Unfortunately, Julio is getting older, and his culture is disappearing along with farmers like him. Similar to youth here, many are drawn to the cities to make more money, and they are leaving their traditions and the farming practices behind. So the film is about a man who becomes known as The Potato King, but also what he represents, and what we could lose if a culture like this disappears.

YPC: How did it all come about? Finding a story and opportunity like this seems like a needle in a haystack!

Eric: My brother Aaron and I had wanted to do something together for years. And we talked about a film or film series often, even before either of us had experimented in videography. Peru is an incredible country and the access that Aaron and his organization [the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development] have to these communities is incredibly rare. We knew a lot of the themes we wanted to touch on, but we didn’t have the story to tell. Maybe it was the power of intention, but at the time I was wrapping up my surf trip in Central America, and Aaron sent me a message. “I’ve found the story.” Aaron had been working in Julio Hancco’s community for years, but had just recently gotten to know him. Once he learned about how Julio rose to be The Potato King and how much influence he actually has, we had our story. We set up a Kickstarter and raised money from friends and family, many from the Marshall area. I was in Peru filming before the Kickstarter campaign even ended, and we were off!

YPC: We understand the film had its World Premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) this past spring, which must have been a wild ride. At the upcoming Midwest Première on August 17th at the Franke Center, what do you and Aaron hope the audience takes away from it?

Eric: Yeah, it was wonderful. SBIFF is the biggest film festival in the Los Angeles area, so it was a huge accomplishment for our team. We are really excited about bringing it back to our hometown, and I think people will really identify with it.

What we want the audience to take from the film is the appreciation of indegenous culture and traditional knowledge. This culture lives so simply and so in tune with mother nature, and modernization is slowly destroying it all. This traditional knowledge that has been passed down for centuries is, in some ways, more advanced than our scientific knowledge, and is more responsibly used. These people have been adjusting to climate change for decades – hahaa, spoiler alert, it exists – while we are just now starting to take it seriously. There is real value in what these people know and how they work. If we lose that, the whole world suffers.

We also want to challenge the viewer’s preconceptions about what poverty is, what development is, and really what happiness is. Instead of viewing these communities as backward, we should look to celebrate and learn from them. They have a lot to teach us about humility, consumption, and how a simple life can be a great life. It is a wonderful culture and is really inspiring. I’m really proud of this film and I think we did the message justice.

YPC: Tell us about your brother Aaron’s non-profit organization in Peru.

Eric: The organization is called the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development (AASD), and works with high altitude farming communities in the Andes Mountains. The AASD is not a normal, top-down development organization. They believe that these communities are more capable of eliminating their problems than any development expert. They listen and work with the communities and farmers, and provide support to their own projects and ideas to improve their quality of life. They have been working with these communities for over 10 years, and the results speak for themselves.

YPC: When you’re traveling and seeking out new stories to share, what do you miss about Marshall?

Eric: Ahhhh, jeez. One thing that always frustrates me is when people focus on obstacles instead of possibilities. When someone has a new idea, a lot of people will look for all the reasons it can’t be done, and ignore how you can overcome those challenges. The small, creative community in Marshall has accomplished a lot for a small town. I’ve been shocked at how cooperative and supportive the community has been. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed, and is willing to help. You need that kind of attitude to achieve difficult things, otherwise everyone would do them.

YPC: What is something you have experienced outside of Marshall that you would like to see us have or embrace?

Eric: Easy. Celebrating diversity. I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault that we lack diversity compared to other Michigan cities, but I think we as a community need to embrace it when we get the opportunity. We have it great here, let’s share it.

YPC: What is your most epic adventure to-date?

Eric: A few months ago I went looking for a man on a small island in Lake Titicaca, on the border of Peru and Bolivia. I didn’t know where he lived, I didn’t know what he looked like, I didn’t even know his last name. But despite all of that, after a twelve-hour bus ride and a two-hour ferry to the island, I found him. I spent three days with him and his family, and I hope to have a nice little short film about it sometime soon.

YPC: Too Cool. Alright, time for some rapid-fire questions. You ready?

Eric: Hell yeah.

YPC: Let’s get right to it. The Ebner siblings are entered into the Hunger Games alongside Katniss. Who wins?

Eric: Hahaha. Well, it wouldn’t be me, I can tell you that. I do a lot of adventurous stuff but, in reality, I’m just a big softy. But I would take my brother Aaron against anyone. Especially if it was at 14,000 feet.

YPC: Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey?

Eric: Neither. Sade hands down.

YPC: Touché. Best film-maker of all time?

Eric: One filmmaker who I really like and inspires me is Brent Foster. He isn’t well known but he makes wonderful little shorts about people all around the world. Look him up if you get the chance.

YPC: Favorite past-time?

Eric: If I can do any sort of sport or physical activity with my friends, that’s the dream.

YPC: What song gets you on the dance floor the fastest?

Eric: Haha, any old school West Coast hip-hop gets me going. My poor friends have had to hear me rapping more often than they would like.

YPC: Hahaa, now we know what style of music to fire up on the speakers downtown! Changing gears, or maybe not (?), what advice do you have for the youth of Marshall as they look towards their next chapter in life?

Eric: When talking about creative projects or goals, my advice is that you need to really be passionate about what you’re doing. Like extremely passionate. If you want to make something really special, it’s going to take a lot of work and work that isn’t always fun. For the massive amount of time you will need to put into your project, the only way it will be worth it, in the end, is if it brings you happiness. If approval is your motivation, you could get some kind words and encouragement, but is that worth hundreds or thousands of hours? I would say no. If money is your goal, a lot of these projects don’t end up making boatloads of money. So based on those measures of success, you would be a failure, even if you made something beautiful. You need to make sure to set your intention to fulfill yourself. Once you do that, everything else is an added bonus.

YPC: What does your next chapter hold?

Eric: I’m in talks about my next project, but the main issue is funding. I don’t necessarily need to make money from passion projects, but I’m at the point where I won’t continue to finance these stories on my own. So there are some really exciting possibilities, but I’m going to keep it close to the vest until something is official.

YPC: We’ll be rooting for you, and if there is anything we or Marshall can do to help support you – you know where to find us.

Eric: I really appreciate it. I think what the YPC is doing is awesome and so important for a town like ours. It really does make Marshall a more exciting place for young people.

YPC: Much thanks, Eric, and thank you for taking the time today to sip some coffee with us, give the orange chair some love, and share your story. You are a prime example of what it means to #BeYoungish, and thank you for opening our eyes to the beauty of different cultures and mindsets through your storytelling. You are a true artist and we are proud Marshallites.

Coming to a Marshall Franke Center near you.
Interested in seeing more of Eric’s film-making or photography? Head to or, even better yet, join us for the Midwest Premiere of “Opening the Earth: The Potato King” at the Franke Center on August 17th. The event is presented by BluFish Consulting, the Michigan Humanities, and your very own YPC! Doors open at 6pm and the show starts at 7pm, with a Q&A to follow with Eric and Aaron. It’s going to be a great opportunity to hear and see just how talented these two born-and-raised Marshallites are, and learn about all of the great work they are doing.

Please also check out the great work Aaron and AASD are doing in the high mountains of Peru by visiting

To learn more about the YPC, please head to our website or email us. And until the next YPC Spotlight or Fridays at the Fountain concert: #BeYoungish, #ChooseMarshall, and make the next chapter of your story is one for the books!

Rebekah Hammond-Lehman

Spotlight: Rebekah Hammond-Lehman


The Youngish Professionals Committee has recharged our batteries to get the YPC Spotlight working again, and we have a great interview to kick off the next round of this bright series! Our Youngish friend Rebekah Hammond-Lehman takes to the orange chair to share her talents and interest with our community, and some advice on how to put your dreams into action.

SO…without further ado, please welcome Rebekah to our latest installment of the YPC Spotlight series!

YPC: Hey Rebekah, thanks for sitting down with the YPC! To kick things off, tell us a little about yourself and where you’re from.

RHL: Well, I grew up in Olivet, just down the road from Marshall, but I went to school in Battle Creek. Currently, I live in Battle Creek and work in Marshall.

I married my high school sweetheart, Dan, 15 years ago and we have 3 children who we absolutely love and adore. I love to travel and have been to 49 out of our 50 beautiful states. Hopefully, I will have Hawaii checked off of my bucket list within the next couple of years.

YPC: What a great state to end on! Professionally, what keeps you busy?

RHL: I’ve been a photographer for the past decade and just this year I opened my own studio and co-working space in Downtown MarshallKin&Co Studio.

Kin & Co Studio

YPC: What kind of photography do you do?

RHL: I’m mainly a wedding photographer, but I really enjoy fine art photography as well and often shoot purely for my creative outlet. I love trying new techniques and am always pushing myself to be better.

YPC: What inspired you to become a photographer?

RHL: I’ve always been a creative type and thought briefly about going into graphic design, but then my husband bought me a camera as a gift before one of our vacations and I fell in love. I learned everything I could about my little camera and then kept upgrading from there. Eventually, people started asking me to take their photos and that’s how I ended up where I am today.

YPC: A hobby turned professional, that’s awesome. Where has your photography taken you?

RHL: Lots of places! I have the honor and pleasure of traveling all over Michigan, which is pretty awesome. I have an intense love for this state and I’m always excited to visit new cities, especially along the shoreline and up north. I’ve also shot in Alaska and Washington D.C. My dream is to become a destination wedding photographer!

YPC: What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever photographed?

RHL: Oh, gosh! That’s a hard one! I guess it would have to be any photo that moves me. I have literally been moved to tears as I document beautiful moments, or shaking uncontrollably from laughing so hard.

YPC: Is the “first look” photo you recently took, where the bride sent the groom’s best friend in her place, one of those laughing so hard moments?

RHL: Ha! Totally. It was such a fun and funny moment, and it’s wild to know that photo has now been shared over 32,000 times and seen by millions!


YPC: So tell us a little bit about the studio/co-working space and what inspired you to open it in Marshall.

RHL: Where to start! I’ve wanted to have my own studio for a long time. I was often driving to Kalamazoo or Grand Rapids to find a decent space to rent for my photography needs and it was getting old. I had hoped that someone would just open up a cool space in the area and then thought, “Why not me!?” So that’s exactly what I did. But more than just having my own studio, I wanted to share it. Not every photographer/videographer can afford to own a studio and I wanted to make this space available at an affordable price to meet those needs.

In addition to the studio space, we also have a really unique co-working space. We have three desks that we rent out monthly to independent business owners that need a creative space to work in. It can be difficult for some people to work from home, myself included, and I wanted to create a space that motivates and inspires small business owners and helps them thrive at what they do.

As far as opening up the studio in Marshall, it was just a perfect fit! I’ve always loved the Marshall vibe and the diversity of the shops downtown. Not only that, but we are located directly above East End Studio and Art Gallery. To me, it’s just a beautiful blend of the arts and it couldn’t be more perfect!

YPC: What is one thing you are most proud of in 2018?

RHL: Well, I’m definitely proud of myself for taking my studio dream and making it become a reality. I tend to dream a lot, but don’t always follow through or take the necessary steps to make it happen. I think a lot of us can be like that.

YPC: What advice would you give to someone who wants to make a dream become a reality?

RHL: In the words of Nike, JUST DO IT! In all seriousness though, I would encourage them to start talking about their dream to close family and friends. Speaking it out loud is actually a pretty big step for a lot of people. Surrounding yourself with a solid support system will be so important and you will definitely need their encouragement along the way. Next, write down your dream and then work your way backwards with lots of little goals leading back up to your dream. Just start there and see where it takes you.

YPC: What is one thing you wish to accomplish in 2019?

RHL: I would love to start teaching photography workshops in 2019! I taught a photography 101 workshop back in the day and I loved it so much! And now that I say that, it’s making me think that I need to start that list I was just talking about!

YPC: What are you really into right now, as far as music, movies, books, etc.?

RHL: Oh man…I’m a huge Making a Murderer fan and recently finished the second season on Netflix. I actually texted my sister and asked her if she wanted to go to Washington with me next year to sit in the protest. I think she thought I was joking…I wasn’t. Haha!

I’ve also been into learning the Enneagram. It has been really fascinating learning about all of the different personality types and what makes people “tick”. Sadly, I cannot figure out what type I am! But, I’m determined and will report back once I figure it out.

YPC: Is there anything else you would like others to know about the studio or your photography?

RHL: Yeah! We actually have one desk available for rent if anyone is interested. Shameless plug, I know! Also, the studio rental isn’t necessarily exclusive to photographers and videographers. We have a beautiful handmade conference table that could be used for meetings, or you could use the space for workshops, yoga classes, artist events, etc. We actually just had a local band, Steel Giant, use the space for a live recording. It was really awesome!

YPC: Excellent! Well, thank you for your time Rebekah; thank you for sharing your talent, creative space, and energy with Marshall; and thank you for being Youngish! We are fortunate to have you as part of our community of professionals!

To learn more about Rebekah and see her talents in action, check out her professional page on Facebook (@kindredphotos) and Instagram (@kindred_photo_), in addition to Kin&Co Studio’s page on Facebook ( Interested in having her shoot for you or your business? Great! Send her a private message through either of the accounts above or a direct email to

We hope to see you at the Mele Kalikimaka Mingle on Thursday, December 6th (Facebook Event Link)(Website Link), that you have your calendars marked for the Wolf Tree Film Festival on January 26th (Facebook Event Link)(Website Event Link), and that you are continuing to find new ways to share your talent and energy with the great little town of Marshall!


Jake Gates

Spotlight: Jake Gates


In our latest YPC Spotlight, we learn just how real orange chair envy can be, as the talented Jake Gates shares with us some tales from the comforts of his own soup’d up model (they make them in leather?!).

We hope you enjoy the adventure of how this youngish professional found his way back to Marshall, and learning about the power Fiction holds in the here and now.

Tylere Presley

Spotlight: Tylere Presley


In this month’s Spotlight, Tylere Presley takes to the orange chair to share how he found his current path in life, along with some of the twist and turns he has experienced along the way. He’s the kind of guy that has always had a clear picture of what the future can bring, and has always been able to see the positive in life, despite the circumstances. Please read on to see the good, the scary, and power of a positive perspective.

Tylere Presley

YPC: Let’s kick things off from day one. Where are you originally from?

Tylere: I was born in Battle Creek and then made the big move to Marshall when I was in 2nd grade.

YPC: What did you enjoy most about growing up in Marshall?

Tylere: I liked that it was the kind of place I felt I could do anything and be anybody. I always felt comfortable to try something new growing up here.

YPC: That’s awesome. When you were at Marshall High and looking towards your future, what were your dreams?

Tylere: I wanted to go to college, go to law school, become an attorney for 10 or 15 years, and during my time as an attorney serve on a school board or city council…

YPC: You had all of this mapped out in High School?!

Tylere: Haha, yeah! And after that all of that, I thought I’d run for a position on the state level and see where it goes from there.

YPC: With the path in mind, what did you end of studying in college?

Tylere: I majored in political science and minored in legal studies and psychology at Central Michigan University (CMU).

YPC: What followed after graduating from CMU?

Tylere: My first semester at CMU I was interested in joining a fraternity, and I found Beta Theta Pi. When I was pledging, I met some people from our national staff that traveled the country, visiting different chapters and alumni groups. I thought that sounded pretty interesting, and I knew it would be good to take a break before heading off to law school – to network and challenge if it was something I still really wanted to do. While at CMU, I worked hard to make that a possibility. I held various leadership positions, ended up being chapter president, and attended some national conferences. I’m happy to say it all paid off and I got the job I was after..

YPC: And where was that?

Tylere: Oxford, Ohio, which is where our headquarters is based. But, while that was technically home base for me, 75% of the time I was traveling around the country.

YPC: What was your travel like? College campus to college campus?

Tylere: Yeah. South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida were my main territories, and I also spent a little time in Texas.

YPC: That’s a ton of time on the road. Did that experience teach you anything new, or was your eye still on law school and that initial dream you shared?

Tylere: For the first year on the road I definitely still wanted to go to law school. I should mention that, during college, I also had an internship with a law firm in Chicago and worked in Jase Bolger’s office when he was speaker of the house, so I had the opportunity to see what it would be like to be an attorney and in public office. I definitely liked both of those experiences, so that’s why I was still so dead set on going to law school. It wasn’t until my second year when my job description changed and I moved to Atlanta that my mindset started to change. I met some attorneys there that said, “Man, you really don’t want to do this.” My goal had been to get in-state residency in Georgia and apply to the University of Georgia Law School, but yeah, they persuaded me not to do that. And at that time, I started to have aspirations to do some different things, so when I started to think about my return on investment of going to law school, it just wasn’t there.

YPC: Were you surprised to hear that advice from them?

Tylere: At first, yes. But the more we talked about what it was I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, and how to get there, it just made a lot more sense to not do that.

YPC: So you’re down in Georgia at that point. With the new change in mindset, is that when you moved back to Michigan?

Tylere: Initially, no. When my project in Atlanta ended I moved to West Lafayette, Indiana, with the anticipation of being there for a year. But then I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, so I did 6 months of chemo – which finished in January of 2015 – and, 2 days after my last chemo, I moved down to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for an opportunity at the University of Alabama. In December 2015 my cancer relapsed, and that’s what essentially brought me back to Michigan and to Marshall.

YPC: So you had your first round of treatment down there?

Tylere: Yeah, my first round of treatment was in West Lafayette, Indiana. I had everything diagnosed at the University of Michigan in 2014, but I had just moved to Indiana and didn’t want to move back to Marshall. With West Lafayette only 3 hours from home, that was the concession I made with my mom. One of the worst parts of being diagnosed the first time was when the doctor said I was going to have to move home for 6 months. I really didn’t want to do that. Once it relapsed, I had a couple of different options of where to go, but I was more concerned about making it easier on my family. So that’s why, reluctantly, I decided to go to UofM to get treated. And I’m glad I did. They provided great care, and, based on my last visit, I’m all good now! My last treatment was in August of 2017.

Tylere PresleyYPC: That first diagnosis…did that just knock you right down

Tylere: Yeah, is a sense. I didn’t really know what it meant. I didn’t know what life was going to be like. But, as someone who always has to be doing something, I would get chemo treatments and go back to work…

YPC: That’s awesome you were able to still be so active.

Tylere: Yeah…but I will say, what really helped lessen the blow of the bad news was, a month before, I had noticed some swollen lymph nodes on my neck. I was visiting home and my mom noticed them as well, so we went to the doctor. Before going, I asked my mom what it could mean as she is a nurse-practitioner. She said it could be nothing and be addressed with some antibiotics, but if that doesn’t work, it could be some form of cancer. So I was already thinking worst case scenario at that point, or at least had it in the back of my mind. When the swelling didn’t go down, they said I needed to go get these scans done, it was like, “Okay…cool. Something way more serious is happening here.”

YPC: Wow, man, we cannot imagine. With the second diagnosis that followed, that must have been crushing

Tylere: Yeah…when I was told it had come back, it was almost a similar story. I had just gotten a six-month check-up scan that came back fine, but then I started to notice a lymph node under my left arm, and I was like, “I don’t think that is good.” So I called up the doctor’s office and had another scan done. A week later the call came in. It was back, and this time it would require a much more aggressive form of treatment.

I was super bummed about this because I had already started planning the next steps in my life. Around the time I was first diagnosed I had picked up a GoPro Camera and started playing around with that. A couple months later I bought a DSLR (photography camera) and started making little videos and taking photos, and I really enjoyed it. The fraternity had asked me to do a bunch of work for them video-wise, so not only was I back in Alabama, but every other weekend I was in some other area of the country filming some sort of project. I was super pumped about what was coming next…and then I was hit with that news. I didn’t know what the final outcome was going to look like. If you relapse, you know it can’t be good. On top of that, moving back wasn’t the most exciting thing for me, but I decided to make the most out of it, and I’m enjoying it. I enjoy being back.

YPC: Was it that GoPro that got you into the work you are doing now?

Tylere: It was the spark that re-ignited a fire! I had played with videography and photography in middle school and high school, but outside of that, it was all just for fun. Once I started to work towards law school, I stopped doing it. I kind of just put it away, but once I picked it back up, it was as if I never stopped. And now I can purchase much better equipment which makes it even more fun, hahaa.

YPC: What’s your dream job? Presidential Aspirations

Tylere: No, but I still feel public service is something I would like to do. Just not sure what level. Working for the fraternity taught me how much I value autonomy. As a recent graduate, they allow you to do a lot, and that’s pretty crazy…

YPC: No kidding. As a recent graduate, it seems like you’re usually under a magnifying glass.

Tylere: Yeah, but definitely not the case in this instance. Right away they told me that I would be running 15 different projects. They trusted me and my best judgement, and it really instilled in me the confidence to deliver. That experience is what inspired my desire to own my own business. A media business with photography and video, working with social media…really any kind of content creation. I’d like to create a small team and help develop them and their talent to deliver compelling stories for organizations, businesses, schools, and people. If someone wants something done, let’s help them. But let’s do it in a fun, unique, and compelling way.

YPC: As far as storytellers go, who captures your eye and imagination the most?

Tylere: It varies and I find inspiration everywhere. I like to watch a wide range of things made by a wide range of different people. It’s more so looking at how they shoot something, how they tell a story and how they edit it, and then I try to see how I can mimic or improve it.

YPC: Is there anything recent that has really captured your attention?

Tylere: I’m really into the show Peaky Blinders on Netflix. The lighting, the cinematography, the editing, the music, the dialogue, the story, everything. It’s just a really great show for so many reasons.

YPC: So what’s the story with Tag Along Media? Is that the dream business you’re looking to grow?

Tylere PresleyTylere: Yeah! I started Tag Along Media when I moved back to Marshall. I was told the chemo treatment this time around was going to be 18 months to 2 years and I knew I would have to stop working for the fraternity and focus on my health. I was super bored, had a lot of ideas and I knew I couldn’t sit around and do nothing all day. I had some camera equipment to play with and people started asking me to film stuff for them, so I was like, “Sweet, let’s do this.”

YPC: Where would you like to see Tag Along in 5-10 years

Tylere: I’d like to have built a small team. Whether that is in Marshall or a different market, I’m not sure. With the way the world works, the awesome power of the internet, and travel, it is amazing how you can be connected with anyone, anywhere. And that’s happened for a lot of projects I’ve worked on. I get a call, I hop on a plane, and I’m there to help capture an event. I think it would be cool to be able to set up here in Marshall though, for sure.

YPC: We definitely don’t mind hearing that! When you think about Marshall, what are some opportunities you see for town?

Tylere: That’s tough…I’m trying to think what could be improved about Marshall versus what are the things I miss from other places I’ve lived. That’s what’s been so great about being able to travel around the country. I am able to compare and contrast, and traveling away from Marshall made me realize how special of a place it is. We are spoiled in so many different ways and I’d like to work to promote all those special things.

It would be awesome if we had more young adults in town, as it is something I miss from living in larger cities. Yoga was a big part of my life while living in Atlanta, especially hot yoga, and having different studios to go to would be great. Affordable downtown living would be awesome. I wish there were more downtown apartments, because as a young person in town, I am very attracted to that kind of space. I’ve spent some time in the current apartments and Marshall feels like a whole new place in them.

YPC: Big change of pace, but what did your experience having cancer teach you?

Tylere: In a weird way, it taught me to care less about what other people think and more about the things that make me happy. To work towards those things and get rid of the negative in your life. Going through that experience, I’ve seen a lot of different people in hospitals. Every time I walked in to get my treatment I’d joke that I just lowered the average age. Everyone looked so sad and somber, and it was a tough place to be. But I had to have a different mental state than that. Does cancer suck? 100 percent. It wasn’t something I wanted or something I asked for, but there was nothing I could do to change the situation. The only thing I could change was my attitude. It was the one thing I had control over in that situation and, frankly, most situations. So that’s what I did. Don’t get me wrong though, I was upset about it, but you have to be the best you.

YPC: Who do you look up to, or who inspires you?

Tylere: I don’t think there is any one person. It’s an amalgamation of different people. Parents, grandparents, some teachers and professors, former colleagues and bosses…I have a ton of great people in my life.

YPC: Any words of wisdom for the extra youngish in town

Tylere: Be you, be weird. Try new things, and don’t let other people tell you no if you know that’s something you want to do,

YPC: Favorite place you have ever traveled?

Tylere: Charleston, South Carolina. It stole my heart the first time I pulled in.

YPC: Favorite Podcast?

Tylere:I’ve been really into the Studio Sherpas. When I found it, I listened to 10 episodes in a row on a long drive and thought, “Where has this content been!?”

YPC: Final thoughts? Shout-outs?

Tylere: It would be great to see more people at Youngish events, as I think the YPC is a much-needed body in Marshall. In the short time it has been here, I have definitely checked out different places in Marshall that I didn’t know were there, and it is super exciting to see all that they are doing.

YPC: Thanks, man, and thank you for all that you do.

Tylere: Thank you.

Tag Along Media

Tylere Presley Photograph

Interested in utilizing Tag Along Media’s expertise to showcase your organization, business, or a personal story to new audiences? Great! Please contact Tylere directly (, and get ready to see some phenomenal work. We have been fortunate to work with him, as have many other groups in town, and we can only share our high praise for his talents! The photo above is one of his favorite photos, taken using one of his favorite toys, and it’s just one of the many unique perspectives he can provide you or your business.

Until next month’s Spotlight, be active, be engaged, and be Youngish!

And for those out there fighting cancer, be strong.
We’re all in your corner!

Katie Bagale

Spotlight: Katie Bagale


In this month’s Spotlight, Katie Bagale takes to the orange chair to share a few of the many things that make her world go round.

Having traveled and lived all over the globe, Katie finds herself back in one of her many childhood communities, sharing her love for our small town with her family, and her many lessons learned along the way with the greater Marshall area. Please read on to see how, from an early age, she learned the value and beauty diversity brings to life, and why she works so hard to help others embrace it today.

Spotlight: Carlos Figueredo


In this month’s Spotlight, we sit down with Carlos Figueredo.

Once hailing from the Caribbean, North Pacific and North Atlantic coasts, Carlos takes to the orange chair to share how two of his loves in life brought him to his current freshwater flanked home, Michigan. Please read on to see how art continues to shape and influence his life and professions, how he became part of the creative beast that is the Dark Horse Brewing Company, and why Marshall is the place he now calls home.

Jake Kershaw

Spotlight: Jake Kershaw


Jake Kershaw, stellar high school student and music sensation on the brink of stardom, takes to the orange chair to share his inspiring story in this month’s YPC Spotlight feature.

Special thanks to our fellow Youngish, Erica Eash (interviewer & photographer) for putting this piece together, and to the Kershaw family for graciously allowing us into their homes.

#BeYoungish #ChooseMarshall #TheYoungishProfessionals

Jake Kershaw

YPC: You’re a very talented musician. How old were you when you started playing the guitar?

Jake: I was about 9 years old when I got my first guitar and I started listening to all of the old 80’s hair bands. But I was listening to the songs to really understand them, it wasn’t just for the sake of listening to music. And then after I got an electric guitar, that’s when this all just started happening.

YPC: I imagine this level of skill requires a lot of practice. What is your schedule like?

Jake: Right now I rehearse with the guys at least once a week. Sometimes I’ll play the guitar while I’m watching tv, or I’ll hear John Mayer do something and try it. I tend to just play whenever I really feel like it, but I used to practice maybe 10 hours a day. I would shut myself in my room and listen to people do guitar riffs that I liked and try to figure it out…come out for a sandwich or something at lunch, then go back to practicing!

YPC: Wait, does that mean that you’re self taught?! You just figured this all out by ear on your own?!

Jake: I took lessons for about a year. But yeah, for the most part it’s been by ear…and I’ve watched A LOT of videos, haha!

YPC: That’s really impressive!

VIDEO: Jake killin’ it at Blues at the Bohm, a monthly event at
Albion’s Historic Bohm Theater this July.

YPC: How many guitars do you have?

Jake: I have 9 electric and 1 acoustic.

YPC: Do you have a favorite?

Jake Kershaw GuitarJake: My Les Paul was my first really good guitar, but my Heritage…I’ve always wanted a custom guitar and I’ve always wanted a custom Heritage guitar, so this is amazing! I can definitively say I have never felt a guitar better than this guitar. It’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me!

YPC: I’m sure that’s a moment that will never be forgotten. You’re also a 4.0 student and starting to perform quite regularly. How do you manage it all?

Jake: It’s a lot to juggle. Especially this year since I’m getting more attention, I get picked out of school more! I talk to the teachers beforehand so I can get all my work done. Sometimes I get home, do my homework, rehearse for three hours and then do my homework again. It’s definitely a balance!

YPC: What are your plans after high school?

Jake: I’ve thought about this for a while! I would really love to be a musician. This is too fun not to do. But, I’ve always been told to have a back-up plan. I met Bill Chrysler, he’s been the sound engineer for John Mayer and Maroon 5. That made me think I’d like to go to college to learn about sound engineering. So it could be college first, but if I make it like I’m hoping I do, a musician on the road!

YPC: Do you get nervous before performing?

Jake: I don’t necessarily get nervous anymore. When you have a lot of time beforehand, you sometimes try to psych yourself out. It’s not my fear of being in front of people, it’s my fear of looking like an idiot in front of people!

YPC: Haha well it’s pretty hard to look like an idiot with your level of talent and charisma. What’s the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

Jake: I’ve done some really cool things, but performing for Blues in the Mall at the DeltaPlex was amazing. I broke the attendance records with upwards of 3,000. I didn’t even know 3,000 people knew about me! Playing with Johnny Lang was another big one.

YPC: You’ve performed at Blues Fest here in Marshall. Why do you think an event like this is important?

Jake KershawJake: It brings the community together. That’s a lot of people and community right in one place. And it’s important to keep the blues alive. Things need to evolve and things need to change, but you still need to know where the roots are from. It’s cool for preserving the blues history, but also great for opening new doors for the future of blues.

YPC: If you could perform with anyone who it would be and why?

Jake: I would like to perform with Joe Bonamassa. He’s been so influential in what I’ve done, introducing me to so many other artists. He’s such a groundbreaking guitarist that’s doing things the way musicians want it to be done. I would love to get advice from him on what an inspiring artist like me should do.

YPC: You just released an album. What’s your favorite song on it?

Jake: “Sitting in the rain”, which is funny because it’s the last song that I wrote and finished, but it evolved into something that was catchy. It’s really fun to play and it’s just different. I like the song and people like it too!

Jake Kershaw Guitar CaseYPC: Best advice you’ve heard so far?

Jake: Chet Atkins said to always be the nicest guy in the room. I try to do that the best I can everywhere I go. I try to be as nice as I possibly can because without the fans, I would not be here. Be humble, be yourself, and be kind to people. That goes a long, long ways.

YPC: Last question – what would you say to a young child who sees you perform and says, “I want to be like him someday”?

Jake: Dream big. Always dream big. Get yourself out there and do something with yourself. You can sit in your bedroom and play all day, but it doesn’t mean much if you don’t get yourself out there. That’s how I’ve gotten to where I’m at right now, because I’ve gotten myself in front of people and I’m lucky to have really supportive parents. So get yourself out there, write your own songs and do something new. Be different! Everyone else is already taken, so just be you.