Marie Schumacher, a former teacher at King Middle School in Berkeley, plays the Subterranean Art House on Saturday

Back in the mid-1990s when Marie Schumacher was teaching at Berkeley’s King Middle School, her students didn’t know she was living a double life. By day she elucidated math and science for sixth graders, and by night she performed at venues like Albany’s Club Muse and Berkeley’s Rose Street House of Music. While honing her craft with bands like the retro-pop combo Agent 99, she started to develop her own book of tunes as a singer/songwriter.

Based in Portland, OR  since 2000, the vocalist, guitarist, pianist and vocal arranger has maintained close creative ties to the East Bay through her long-running faculty position at Cazadero Music Camp. She plays her annual Berkeley concert Saturday February 4th at the Subterranean Arthouse with bassist John Foster, drummer Jon Arkin and guitarist Steve Gibson, co-founder and co-director of Berkeley’s innovative music program BandWorks.

Her latest album, “Island Set Aflame,” is the result of her revived collaboration with Gibson, with whom she often performed back in the 90s. While developing the new music in the fall of 2008, she received a jolt of inspiration from a spectacular brush fire that swept across Angel Island, with flames visible from her rehearsal. Crystallizing themes of destruction and creation, life and death, she wrote a series of thematically linked songs that Gibson set to beautifully latticed arrangements.

“Steve draws from so many different styles,” Schumacher says. “I can write a great story and melody, but he’s the guy who takes it to the next level in terms of texture and embellishment. In my songwriting I find the more I evolve, the less time I spend on lyrics.”

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Schumacher lived in Washington, DC and Mexico City before moving to the Bay Area, where she earned a masters degree in education from Cal. In Portland she’s the director of PDX Vox, a community a cappella singing program for adults and teens.

“A lot of musicians teach reluctantly,” Schumacher says. “For me, it’s the opposite. Teaching is my passion, and that all started in Berkeley.”

Andrew Gilbert covers music and dance for the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and KQED’s California Report. He lives in west Berkeley. 

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Freelancer Andrew Gilbert writes a weekly music column for Berkeleyside. Andy, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, covers a wide range of musical cultures, from Brazil and Mali to India and Ireland....