Malakai and father, Greg Schindel
AND THEATER TRAINING:
have been playing music my whole life but had my first
stage appearance where I actually performed—singing
one of my father’s songs with him in a duet—for
a very large crowd when I was seven. That was my first
experience behind a microphone. It was really well received
and I was overwhelmed by the waves of joy people were expressing
towards my expression. I might have caught the bug there.
It was in the Bolinas Community Center and there were probably
300 people there which for a little kid seemed like a whole
heck-of-a-lotta people. I didn’t really do a lot
with music until the 5th grade when I started playing trumpet,
reading music and taking chorus classes at the middle school.
This was in a transitional class included in the middle
school where I stayed for four years through the 8th grade.
That was also where I started doing theater and art in
a big way.
first art teacher was in 4th grade—Tom Jarvis. He
exposed me to the color wheel, the golden mean, proportions
of the face relative to features of the face, and gradations
of value—giving me fundamental programming at an
early age. We even did some basic stop-action animation
where we constructed and animated cartoon characters in
a moving linear format. It was really cool to do that at
such an early age.
middle school I had Miss Pealatere. She took things even
farther—teaching us about the uses of complementary
colors, foreground, middle ground, background, three-point
and one-point perspective, shading, light source and more
complicated elements of visual art and three-dimensional
design. We also worked with found objects and sculpture.
I had always loved to play in play-dough, action figures,
and to animate the three-dimensional world.
was Miss Pealatere as well who got me into theater. My
first stage roll was the part of Robin Hood. I remember
being so ecstatic when I found out I had the part because
it was just perfect. All my friends were the Merry People—including
the girls. It was a musical version so I ended up having
to sing as well as remember a lot of lines. This early
theater experience threw me right into singing and performance
at the same time. Once introduced to theater I performed
in more plays. My next roll was The Pied Piper.
Middle School I experienced a profound shift in my art
direction. My instructor in the arts through four years
of high school was Kathleen Kirkpatrick. I took as many
classes from her as I could—all levels of visual
arts and ceramics that she offered. She brought the culture
of art to my education and she brought excitement. She
brought life to art. It was thrilling to be an artist.
She had a way of bringing together elements that you would
never think to put together, giving us assignments where
she would take three random things from the world and throw
them together. Like she would say, “Eagle wing,” “magnifying
glass,” “clock” and you would have to
make a picture out of that—or interpret it and make
something based on however that statement made you feel.
She made me understand that it is legitimate to make art
for its own sake and that its value and meaning is subjective—up
to you and your interpretation. Historically, she exposed
us to the cave paintings of Lascaux and brought us up to
Andy Goldsworthy and Alex Grey—right up to now and
everything in-between—western art movements and a
deep study of the artists behind them. We learned which
artists knew each other, why they were creating their art,
and the context of change and revolution that was occurring
in the world at that time . . . . All of this was paramount
in my development as an artist—her encouragement
and support was amazing. Every day for four years she had
something new and fresh for us to do, a new quote, a new
thing to think about, a new angle on art. This brought
the understanding that you can always innovate. There is
no end to the limitlessness of being an artist. We worked
with feathers, bits of metal, wood, old and new things—combining
sculpture with painting, collage and multi-media. Kathleen
always encouraged me to follow my path.
FATHER: Greg Schindel — The Train Singer
was born into a musical family. My father is a song writer,
guitar player and was the leader of a band called the Kindred
Souls when I was born. That was a band with a lot of instruments—guitar,
fiddle, bass, horns and percussion—a very transcendental,
eclectic, gypsy, folk group . . . I traveled extensively
from town to town when I was little—to festivals,
craft fairs and political rallies. I was around a lot of
artists and musicians. My father was also a yacht builder
and painter, so we also traveled to ship yards where he
would paint boats—marine hull painting and bow head
filigrees. The band stopped traveling when I was about
6 or 7, but as my dad remained a professional entertainer,
I still attended concert and shows.
Schindel THE TRAIN SINGER
father is in his twentieth year (2008) as the California
Western Railroads Skunk Train “Train Singer.” That
is his persona—the world’s only train singer.
He knows more train songs than anyone else in the world
and he performs regularly on the Skunk Train—everything
from old Americana train music to Ozzie Osborne crazy train
songs—from the old to contemporary. He has his own
finger-picking and very enthusiastic style of playing.
He plays at museums, birthday parties, weddings, funerals,
and any other event where music would be appropriate. There
is always music. If he is not on the train playing music,
he is at home practicing.
I was born my mom was a switchboard operator for a phone
company—an obsolete profession now. For awhile we
all lived in a pick-up camper that my father built on the
back of an old 1964 Chevy. It resembled an upside-down
boat—a gypsy wagon more or less. I have an older
brother and a younger sister and the entire family lived
in that as we traveled and my mom took care of us full
I was five we moved to Willits, and she started working
in a plant nursery. Her passion is plants. She is a landscape
artist and a very avid and incredible gardener. She has
a green hand and can bring things that look dead back to
life. She uses an incredible palette of foliage textures
and plant colors in an intentional and planned-out way.
We moved to a one-acre piece of land when my father was
working as the visual and performing arts specialist in
the Willits School District. My mother’s garden on
this land of the past twenty-three years has thousands
of different plants—shrubs, ornamentals, herbs, food
plants, fruit trees, water plants—one of the most
extensive collections in the valley.