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Rebecca Schultz: Balancing work and art

Rebecca Schultz wanted to run MTV when she grew up.

Her childhood dream didn’t come true, but the VP, Small Business Marketing at Bank of America Merchant Services feels like she’s achieved the next best thing.

An artistic nerd

Growing up in Indianapolis, Rebecca says she was “a nerd who liked being artistic.” She loved dancing, but says “ballet was boring.” So from an early age, Rebecca was a competitive ballroom dancer. “I was always involved in performance of one kind or another,” she says. Attending a college-prep high school meant there were no classes in performing arts, but Rebecca took part in after-school activities like choir and theatre.

In 1998, retail chain Gap aired a commercial that caught everyone’s attention. The 30-second spot was meant to sell khakis, but it inspired a different trend. Featuring swing dancers, the ad got millions of people interested in the dance form that had been popular in the 1930s and 1940s. “Suddenly I was teaching swing dancing to all sorts of people,” Rebecca says. “At community centers, schools, summer camps, you name it.”

Her love of dancing continued into college. Attending the University of Miami, Rebecca joined a campus salsa dancing group. “I was one of the few gringas in the group,” she laughs. Still aspiring to a career in show business, Rebecca majored in Media Management and Sociology, with minors in Music Business and Entertainment Industry.

Life takes a turn

Graduating in mid-year, Rebecca found herself with a narrow set of choices. “That’s not the time of year most companies are hiring college graduates,” she says. But she saw an opportunity in an interview with General Electric, which at the time owned NBC Universal. Thinking it was her foot in the door, Rebecca signed on, and found herself doing marketing work for the company’s line of store-brand credit cards, instead. “But I thought, ‘I’ll do a year with this, and then I’ll be in the door at NBC Universal,’” she says.

The company had other plans, however. Rebecca soon found herself in Kettering, OH, working on debt-cancellation marketing, then moved to Little Rock, AR for a job marketing credit cards for Dillard’s department stores. “At that point, I had to decide whether to leave, or just embrace my inner banker,” Rebecca says.

She decided to stay in banking, but keep her connection to show business. She became involved in the Little Rock theatre scene, doing musicals with local theatre companies. “I mostly did choreography, or danced in the chorus,” she says, explaining that singing isn’t her strength. “If I played a lead, I’d usually do a funny character, not the romantic lead.”

A new city, a new challenge

But romance was about to play a part in Rebecca’s life. Her boyfriend (now her husband) was in Charlotte, and they wanted to be together. So she began to look at opportunities in the Queen City. One that appealed to her was GMAC (now Ally Bank). “They had a ground-floor opportunity in marketing analytics, and it looked exciting,” she says. She took the job, and ended up working on the product side for nearly 10 years. “I was responsible for checking, savings, money market, debit cards, credit cards. I loved the product side, and the challenge of creating something new,” she says. Rebecca joined Bank of America Merchant Services in 2017.

The call of the footlights

But something was missing in her life: In 2012, Rebecca wanted to get back into the theatre.

At the same time, a new theatre company was forming in the city. Three Bone Theatre was the brainchild of a group of friends who wanted to present adult contemporary plays that would spark conversation and spotlight sometimes controversial issues. “They started a theatre company because nobody told them they couldn’t,” Rebecca says. She auditioned for their first show in Charlotte, and soon became friends with the company’s founders. And they realized they needed someone with Rebecca’s business and marketing skills to help them succeed.

She dove into the project, helping the group come up with a plan, securing 501(C)3 charity status, and qualifying for grant money. Seven years later, the company is in residence at Charlotte’s Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, and the youngest and smallest organization in Charlotte to receive operating support from the Arts and Science Council.

Balancing work and art hasn’t been easy—Rebecca will sometimes devote anywhere from 10 – 40 hours a week on the theatre, and that’s outside the hours she puts in at her job at Bank of America Merchant Services. She handles graphic design, marketing, and photography for the theatre, along with reading dozens of scripts to help choose each season’s offerings.

But Rebecca loves it all, even finding time recently to take on a role in “Ugly Lies the Bone,” a play about a wounded soldier struggling to build a new life for herself. It’s been a while since Rebecca has done any actual performing. With a six-year-old son at home, she’s careful to choose when to audition. “It has to be the right show, and the right part.”

It’s a great way to live, Rebecca says, recalling some advice she got from a professor in graduate school years ago. “The dream is doing what you’re passionate about. The next best thing is to have the flexibility to make a living and still have time to do what you’re passionate about.

“I’ve found it; and I’m happy with that balance.”

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