Welcome to this month’s GENERATION SPOTLIGHT, a new series of alumni stories about alumni parents and their legacy children who have all traveled with Up With People.
This month’s story features Shannon Martin (‘90E) who will celebrate her cast’s 30th reunion this summer in Phoenix and her daughter, Catherine (Cat) Martin (‘19B, ‘20A).
UpBeat contributor Craig Mills (BOG ’81-’90 Era Representative) spoke with Shannon and Cat via conference call and at the 2020 UWP Gala in Denver about their Up with People experience and how it inspires and motivates them today.
CRAIG: First off, why did each of you decide to travel with Up With People?
SHANNON: I attended my first UWP show my sophomore year in high school. A cast member who had attended my high school came to my choir class to say hello to the director.
She told us about the show in Kingsville, TX about 45 minutes away. I begged my mother to go and we did. I sat on the aisle and when the cast came down the aisle, I got up and started dancing with them. I think my sister was so embarrassed she wanted to crawl under her seat.
After the show, my mother told me she could see me doing that. The following year they were in my town and I went again. My senior year they were back in Kingsville and we went again. When the show was over, I got up and went to interview. We had never discussed it, but my mother and I just knew that I would – and I was accepted to the 25th anniversary cast, Cast E1990.
CAT: The first time I ever felt “this is something I have to make a part of my life story” was the first Cast E reunion I attended with my mom. There were about 30 of her cast there, some with families. They all had such amazing life-changing stories from their year on the road. They were all special people and had such a strong connection with each other. I could see how they could be making an impact on the world in their own special way. I wanted to make the connections I was seeing a part of my story, a part of my life plan.
CRAIG: Fantastic. So, the natural next question is ‘How has your mother / daughter relationship influenced your relationship with Up with People?’
SHANNON: For me, I think our mother / daughter relationship has resulted in a renewed closeness to UWP. The year after Catherine went to Camp UWP, I went to work there. I saw what camp did for her and I wanted to be able to help give that experience to other young people. Now I watch UWP and have so many wishes for its growth. I saw what it had done for all the young adults in Cast B 2019 who I got to know a little through Catherine. I see what they are giving back and it gives me hope for the world. I have always known UWP would always be needed in the world, and I am so pleased to see how UWP has grown and adapted to remain relevant in today’s world.
CAT: When I did my interview, I had this moment of realization — I wanted to make sure I was honest with myself about my reasons for traveling with UWP … “Am I doing this because I really want to do it or just because my mother did it?” So, I sat down and had a long hard talk with myself and determined it was my own desire to go. I also wanted to be careful to not just try and relive my mother’s memories. Though I respect and cherish her story, it was important for me to make my own journey. During my 2019 semester, I encountered a lot of people, places, and things that connected me to my mother and her time on the road. It was special to me to have these moments of connection to her while I made it my own experience.
CRAIG: That’s great. Now for my favorite question. What do you consider to be the most impactful memory from your time with Up with People?
SHANNON: Without question, my most memorable moment happened on October 3rd, 1990. It was the night of the reunification of Germany — we sang Moon Rider. I was standing next to the soloist through the song, tears streaming down my face. The audience was standing, lighters lit and raised above their heads. It was one of the most special moments of my life. I also received a gift that day before I had the chance to buy something. My host mother worked for a printing company and she gave me a map of Germany — not East Germany, not West Germany — just Germany. I still have that map. It is a beautiful treasure to me.
CAT: While I have many special moments, I think the one that will have the strongest long-term effect on me was my internship. During the first-round of internships I was selected as the lighting/technical manager’s intern. The whole of the internship was extremely special to me and though it was difficult at first, it has helped me realize and pursue my passion for tech. I was able to gain confidence in my abilities because I was able to make mistakes in a learning environment that was supportive and constructive. I gained a tremendous amount of confidence and when people would call me a leader, for the first time I’d actually believe them. The whole of the internship has literally helped shape my future and where I want my path to lead. And it’s funny, but a stage or the things that would happen during set-up/strike, are frequently one of the first things I remember about a city.
CRAIG: Shannon, this summer is your cast’s 30th reunion. Will you be attending and why?
SHANNON: I will be attending Live it Live @55 this summer. I love to see my castmates and friends I made while working for UWP in Denver in the mid 90’s. At our 20th reunion, someone did the math and said if we only see each other every five years and we live to be so old, we will only see each other again a handful of times, so my cast has mini reunions as often as possible. But getting together at an official reunion renews our connection to UWP, the history, the music, the legacy.
My whole family joined me at my 25th and at UWP’s 50th in Orlando. Catherine performed as a part of Camp UWP and Cast T and our son was part of Cast T. My amazing husband has listened to stories for almost 23 years, hosted cast members starting when our daughter was a toddler, attended numerous mini-reunions, and traveled to UWP shows on the other side of the state. He even traveled to Canada to see not just an Up With People show, but our daughter’s UWP show. This will be the first reunion where Catherine and I are both alumni. That makes it extra special.
CAT: This summer will be my first reunion as an alumna and I’m excited to just go and be around Uppies. I love seeing my mom’s castmates. They are like family to me. I am also excited that my mom and I will have matching reunion years — yet another connection between our experiences.