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November 9th, 2011 12:01 am WW Editorial Staff | Cover Story

A City’s Riches

Introducing four Portlanders who do fabulous work for local nonprofits.

Stephen Marc Beaudoin

Executive Director of PHAME Academy
FUN TIMES: Stephen Marc Beaudoin works his magic.
IMAGE: Roman Nachtigal, focusonyouth.org

Stephen Marc Beaudoin first heard the PHAME choir during a successful benefit concert he produced early last year. As its members enthusiastically belted out the lyrics to “Stand by Me,” he stood in the wings of the Aladdin Theater and—in awe of the choir’s pure joy and expressiveness—began to weep. Their harmonious voices “brought down the house,” Beaudoin recalls. He immediately thought to himself, “I’ve got to get involved with this organization!”

Helping to raise $160,000 in Haiti relief funds wasn’t his only accomplishment that night. Beaudoin, 32, had found a new mission. Soon his life would revolve around the PHAME Academy of Fine Arts, a nonprofit organization in Northeast Portland that provides fine- and performing-arts education to adults with developmental disabilities.

It’s not surprising that Beaudoin, a classically trained musician, was drawn to PHAME, which stands for Pacific Honored Artists, Musicians and Entertainers. He has an extensive background in the arts and in managing nonprofits. Less than a month before last year’s concert, on New Year’s Eve 2009, he promised himself he would get involved with an organization that really meant something to him. He felt he had wandered off track after moving to Portland in 2005 and wanted to return to his roots.

Beaudoin grew up in Independence, Mo., where his parents had a profound influence on him, he says. His father, Philip “Ross” Beaudoin, taught him the importance of helping others—he’s a Catholic deacon who’s been going on yearly missions to Mexico since the early 1980s and was often involved in local charities. Beaudoin’s mother, Renata Beaudoin, helped her son discover his love of music. He remembers singing from a Reader’s Digest songbook while she accompanied him on piano.

Years later, after Beaudoin became PHAME’s executive director, his parents told him before he was born, they, too, had worked with the disabled to put on musicals while employed at a state school in Missouri. Reflecting on this, he says, “Nothing’s a coincidence in life.”

After graduating from high school, Beaudoin studied at the New England Conservatory in Boston, and was later involved in a variety of performing arts-related nonprofits, such as the Fenway Alliance and the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus. Every Columbus Day, during the Fenway neighborhood’s cultural festival, museums and concert halls would open their doors to the public. He says it was during this time that he “started to see the value and the real specialness” of bringing the arts to those who otherwise might not have the means to access it.

Beneath his charming sense of humor and warm smile, Beaudoin cares deeply about the needs of others. He never questions whether he has the time, energy or capacity: He simply asks if there is a need.

It wasn’t a question after a catastrophic earthquake shook Haiti in January 2010, and it wasn’t a question when one hit Japan a year later, leading him to help raise an additional $220,000 for Mercy Corps when he produced another day of benefit concerts at the Aladdin.

But Beaudoin isn’t just a fundraiser. He gives 10 percent of his salary back to PHAME and donates his time and money to other local nonprofits such as Basic Rights Oregon, the Cascade AIDS Project and Fear No Music.

As fate would have it, Beaudoin brought his philanthropic heart and optimistic energy to PHAME at an opportune time. Not only was the recession taking its toll on the academy, but founder Carol Stady had recently retired.

“His leadership has been phenomenal,” PHAME board member Ethan Dunham says. “Since Beaudoin arrived, he’s helped double PHAME’s revenue, created jobs that pay living wages, secured its first official office space and brought in a new, younger generation of donors.

“He has a passion for the population that is extraordinary,” Dunham says. “He connects with the students very well.”

Pat Hansen has been a student at PHAME since its inception in 1984. He says it’s “one of the special things” in his life, and that Beaudoin “knows how to work with the students.”

“He’s got us doing a lot more theater stuff and more performance places for us to sing at,” Hansen says with a grin.

Beaudoin is hard at work promoting “Sparkle! A Night to Shine with PHAME,” a Nov. 20 gala at the Tiffany Center he hopes will raise $100,000 for the academy.

“What drives me,” he says, “is knowing that all the late nights, early mornings and weekends, and all the very gritty, unsexy cranking-out-the-sausage, behind-the-scenes work...affect the lives of these individuals in a very profound way.”

For many of the students, PHAME is their only creative outlet. Some take the bus all the way from Vancouver, Wash., and Oregon City to attend classes.

As for Beaudoin’s Skidmore Prize money? He’s giving it all to PHAME, of course.

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