ANN ARBOR, MI – When Michael Barg decided to knock on the door of a residence selling a Ford Crown Victoria on Craigslist at around 11:30 p.m. one fateful evening in 2018, he wasn’t expecting Motown legend Martha Reeves to be the one answering the door.
Reeves was friends with the executive running a nonprofit out of the residence on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit and became immediately enthralled with Barg, the director of development for the Ann Arbor Academy.
Barg said he recognized the pop singer immediately.
“Growing up in Detroit, I had been thoroughly schooled on Motown,” Barg told a group of parents and members of the Ann Arbor business community who were visiting Ann Arbor Academy Friday, Dec. 10. “I asked, ‘Are you Martha Reeves’ and she said, ‘How old are you?’ I started singing ‘(Love Is Like A) Heatwave’ and she told me, ‘All right, stop, come in.’”
Barg bought the Crown Victoria, but more importantly, he spent half of the night speaking with Reeves about his role with Ann Arbor Academy. During that time, he also asked her to visit the private school that enrolls students in fourth through 12th grade, many of whom have learning disabilities.
Reeves accepted the offer and visited the school in April 2019, spending the afternoon singing and dancing to her hits with the Vandellas including “Dancing in the Street,” Heat Wave,” “Jimmy Mack” and “Nowhere to Run.”
Reeves returned to Ann Arbor Academy Friday to help the school collection donations for and organize a live performance fundraiser it will hold at the Michigan Theater in early 2022, with the intent of raising money for building renovations at the Pittsfield Township-based academy.
Reeves said she plans to return to the school to help students prepare for the fundraiser, in addition to headlining it, with the students also showcasing their talents.
“I want to see the kids experience the actual art of show business,” Reeves explained to a group of parents and business community members Friday. “I fell in love with the babies (at Ann Arbor Academy). So, I want to see a benefit for the school, but I also want to see all of these kids with all this talent and showcase it on stage.”
Ann Arbor Academy Director Meredith Schindler said Reeves has helped students come out of their shell with her outgoing disposition, getting some kids who normally keep to themselves to sing and dance.
“She’s really drawn out that confidence for them and she really connected with them immediately,” Schindler said. “She’s just so sweet. When the kids come up to her she asks, ‘You’re going to perform with me, right?’”
Reeves, 80, said it was important for her to support the mission of Ann Arbor Academy by putting her name behind the fundraiser, but she also sees the benefit of helping students gain self confidence on the stage.
“We’ll teach the students how to tell their stories – it’s a storytelling event,” Reeves said. “I’ll tell mine, because mine is one of a special nature, to help you raise this money. … Our interests need to be with our special needs babies, because they’re more talented than most.”