“The Thumb” thrives on community
SNOHOMISH - Those who run the Tim Noah Thumbnail Theater at Fourth Street and Avenue D see “the Thumb” as a community beacon that sheds light on local talent.
Tim Noah, who settled in the Snohomish area 14 years ago, had an
odyssean-like career in the major music and performing arts industry that had earned him accolades including several Emmy awards, National Academy of Arts & Sciences awards, and spots on HBO and The Disney Channel.
He chose to leverage his experience to the local scene in hopes of giving others the opportunity to shine in the spotlight and enjoy performing.
Together with partner former Emerson Elementary music teacher Cyndi “Soup” Elliott, Noah founded the Tim Noah Thumbnail Theater in 2002. Prior to them taking it over, the theater used to be a gathering place for worship for the Church of Christian Science for 100 years.
“Both of us were teaching at that time, going door-to-door, doing home guitar lessons,” Noah said. “She said, ‘well, I know of a place where we might be able to give lessons out of,’ and just the day before that I had driven by this place and it was kind of uncanny when I discovered that this was the place, and so we started offering a musical theatre class here.”
Noah said their first class all those years ago had 14 children in it.
“We started with a bang,” Noah said. “Kids were really excited and really fun to work with.”
Following the initial success of working with local folk and teaching classes in the church-turned-theater, Noah and Elliott focused their sights on performances, open mic nights and music-related events.
“I never wanted to preach it, or teach it, I just wanted to do it, express it,” Noah said of music. “And fortunately, others found that to be engaging.”
The Thumb is one place Noah can engage and educate others in music and performing arts. There is a community-within-a-community with the theater volunteers and artists who keep returning to perform.
Although they insist on continuing to be mindful of “little ears” that come into the Thumb for shows or lessons, they also want to stress the fact that the Thumb is also a place for adults and families.
“I think there is a branding confusion,” Elliott said. “Even though Tim Noah’s name is connected to youth (due to his work with children’s programs and shows), this theater is for everyone. All ages – we get from 95 to 9 months. It’s here for everybody, and there are lots of opportunities to express themselves or to be fused with good music.”
The Thumb values the idea of working with local schools and high school students. The Glacier Peak High School Jazz Ensemble recently performed at the theater, and Noah and Elliot would like to keep that going.
The Thumbnail Theater became a nonprofit organization because “we wanted this to be a community arts center,” Elliott said. “We wanted to embrace the community, and we wanted the community to embrace this theater and make use of the theater for artistic expression.”
Elliott runs programs such as The Imagine Inn, and the two regularly put on the Kaddywompas Radio Show to local delight.
Volunteer coordinator Sharon Cordisco, who has been active at the theater since 2010, said there is a certain joy from volunteering at the Thumb.
“I see people come in ... and they’re intimidated at first, thinking or saying, ‘I could never do anything like this,’ like singing or performing at the open mic. They soon find out that because of the atmosphere and how warm and welcoming we are with the community, that it’s with open arms,” Cordisco said. “When you come in and you sing, pretty soon you see that spark, and you get this kind of comfort level. That spans all age groups. So we have this cast of people, regulars that are here a lot, but we are very embracing of newcomers. It’s fun, it’s not stuffy and it’s a listening, respectful audience. It helps everybody with self-esteem, and it’s just a positive experience. That’s very rewarding, to see that and be part of that.”
The Thumbs hosts its open mic night most Fridays.
Some other upcoming events include “Love That Country Music – A Century of Country & Western” on March 1, and a March 2 concert with Scottish folk music player Jamie Laval.
They also strive to keep good ties with local businesses in an effort to promote the arts and a sense of community. They regularly do fundraisers, and try to seek new ways to continue that spirit.
Noah said he believes the main way the Thumb serves the community is how it provides a rare thing: An inter-generational gathering place for young and old to have an enjoyable experience together; coming together for arts-related events. It breaks down the barriers between ages by giving them a common ground – finding joy in music.
“How wonderful it is that we can all gather in a place like this, and have a shared experience,” Noah said. “That’s high on my list. I love to see people walk through the door, and I love to see them walk out with a big smile on their face. I like extending that hospitality.”
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