Academy Community: Alum Shannon Greene Robb

“I auditioned without my parents knowing. I knew I wanted something more- something that my public school just didn’t offer. Unhappy and feeling that there must be another option, I called the operator (dating myself- this was before computers) to find out if there was indeed a school in Chicago that I had only heard rumors about. I set out to discover The Chicago Academy for the Arts.”

Shannon Greene Robb has a uniquely deep relationship with The Academy. A graduate from the Music Department in 1989, Shannon returned after college to teach in (and eventually lead) the department. Later on, she decided to send her son Korgan (Music ’17) to The Academy as well. Read her story below!

After graduating from The Academy in 1989, Shannon Greene Robb’s aspirations led her to Berklee College of Music in Boston to pursue a major in Piano Performance. As fate would have it, a year of playing too hard on the keys left her unable to play piano for three years, and it was at that point in her career when she began to play with everything else. After earning a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from DePaul University, Shannon found freedom outside her classical training through Columbia College Chicago‘s masters program in Interdisciplinary Arts. There, Shannon’s passion for all artistic media flew to new heights as she collaborated with other artists throughout Chicago. Through performance, composition, and installation, she began to create work that defied the traditional constraints and labels of “art.” In turn, she was inspired to continually push the boundaries of what is possible. Shannon credits The Academy for helping instill this mindset.

“I started at The Academy in 1987 as a junior piano major in the Music Department. Our class, 1989, was the last class at the original building on Adams Street. How I wish I could go back and see that place again- there was such history there. In fact, my grandmother graduated in St. Patrick’s Church [the adjacent building], and I was baptized there- so there was this amazing connection.

I have made the best friends at The Academy. In fact, the Artistic Director of my business, Lara Filip is an Academy alum (1990) and lives next door. We also released an album in October: Lara Filip – Stop Time. It’s so exciting to think back to our days at The Academy writing songs together and know that we are still able to connect in that way.

During my last two years of college at DePaul, I came back to The Academy to accompany and direct several musicals. That’s where I met Jason Patera. He was a drummer- always on time, always prepared, and just a great guy to be around. I liked him so much that I hired him on several other shows outside The Academy. Eventually, I was asked to teach Music Theory, Performance, and Piano Lab at The Academy. I was excited to be back in the school, experiencing it from a different perspective. Having the opportunity to facilitate the passion of new Academy students was truly a dream.

After my first semester, I was approached to be the Chair of the Music Department. During that time, Jason asked if there was any extra space in the building for him to keep his drums and practice. We worked it out with Frank Mustari (the Headmaster at the time) and came up with a trade. Jason would get the space, and in turn he would record, support, and teach the music students.

It makes me so proud to watch Jason’s growth and his enduring love for this community that he now leads. My experiences were so meaningful that I later sent my son to The Academy, where he will graduate this year as a music major (drums/voice). Next year, he’ll attend Belmont University to study songwriting.

To experience The Academy from the view of a student, a teacher, a department chair, and finally, a parent has been truly extraordinary and an honor. The impact, opportunity, and space that The Academy gives students touches my heart. It’s a community that extends beyond the walls.

To see kids follow their passion and truly live it is the reason we were all drawn to the school in the first place. I just saw a photo of three former students- all living their dreams. Truly living life. I’m grateful to be part of a place that continues to encourage that kind of inspiration.”

Today, Shannon runs the arts education nonprofit organization ArranmoreArts, which she founded 12 years ago. This organization is a place where “what if?” is a constant state of mind and art ingenuity is the blood that pulses through every vein of the organization. The organization focuses on unique performances and education experiences to inspire community and make life worth living.

In 2011, Shannon started producing events at Arranmore Farm & Polo Club, and has since started another company, Arranmore Events, which manages and produces all events held at the club and event venue, including polo games, concerts, weddings, and special events. The club is located just a few minutes west of Naperville, IL.

Shannon's photo installation for "Inside Out."

Shannon's photo installation for "Inside Out."

Additionally, in October 2016, Shannon created a large-scale photo installation in downtown Naperville as part of the global art project "Inside Out." The installation was featured in TedX Naperville. Furthermore, she was recently appointed by The City of Naperville as a Commissioner for Special Events & Cultural Amenities (SECA) and serves on the board of ARTSpeaks.

It has been tremendously special to have Shannon as part of the Academy community for so many years, and we are so proud of all of her success. Here’s to more to come!

Shannon’s work has been featured in multi-media installations and performances at Chicago area venues including Woman Made Gallery, Glass Curtain Gallery, Links Hall, and Ruth Page Center for Dance. She was the first alumna to be named Chair of the Music Department at The Chicago Academy for the Arts and has worked as Musical Director for various theatre companies and schools throughout Chicagoland.