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Arna Majcher
April 29, 2013

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If Arna Majcher's life were a play, it could be composed of three main acts. Act one: singing. Act two: scheduling. Act three: running. Likely scenes would include the Virginia Opera, NASA's Langley Research Center and the Boston Marathon.

Act one.

The opening scene is set in the 1960s. The curtain raises and there, in costume, stands her mother - a red-haired, hazel-eyed musical theatre singer, who performs in her spare time.

Mom meets dad on New Year's Eve in Germany, and they start dating. After marriage, comes baby Majcher, the star of the show. They name her Arna, and she becomes the fourth female in her family to be named after her great-grandmother.

At the age of five, Majcher follows in her mother's musical footsteps. As their only child, mom and dad nurture her interest, taking her to musicals and theatre, starting with Cats.

As an adult, Majcher begins to sing in local community theatre. She takes vocal lessons to improve her skills and tries out for the Virginia Opera. After two years of lessons and auditions, she earns a hard to come by spot as a mezzo-soprano. She rehearses three or four days each week and performs every few months.

Even now, as a veteran to the stage, there are "always" nerves involved.

"And I think that's good, because I think if you get complacent, you don't perform your best. It's good to have a little edge to it when you are going to sing," Majcher said. "You don't want to be so nervous that you can't breathe when you perform, but at the same time, it's good to stay on your toes. It just makes everything sharper."

Majcher hopes that one of the final scenes might include her singing at the Metropolitan in New York City.

"It might be hard to pull off, since I'm not a full-time singer," Majcher said. "But it's not without possibility, the possibility always exists."

Act two.

Majcher walks the stage of Elon University in North Carolina as an English major. Shortly after graduation, in 1998, she heard that NASA's Langley Research Center was hiring schedulers and thought it could be a good fit for her "type-A" personality. She nabbed the job and started training.

"I have always been attracted to the humanities - English, the arts, history, that kind of thing," Majcher said. "I would have never initially thought of being a scheduler, but it actually comes quite naturally to me."

A few years later, she receives her master's from Old Dominion University in Public Administration. And in 2011, she becomes the lead scheduler for the Game Changing Program Office, based at NASA Langley.

She hasn't settled on a potential curtain call for her career at the center, but for now, she feels right at home with her tasks and her co-workers.

She considers her accidental opportunity with NASA, game-changing.

Act three.

In an opening scene, Majcher's father runs with the hopes of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Running is a regular part of his life, until he is hit with the harsh reality of Parkinson's disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system.

In a later scene, Majcher and her mother are participating in the Walk to End Altzheimer's in Newport News, Va. The walk is dedicated to her grandmother who has Alzheimer's and her father, since both of their diseases affect the same area of the brain (the mid-brain). The walk has become an annual tradition for the mother-daughter team who walks alongside others, sharing their relatable and touching stories.

In a later scene, Majcher and her mother join the Peninsula Track Club and complete their first half-marathon together.

Her father, who is eventually expecting Parkinson's to lead to his passing, asks Majcher to make him a promise. Since he was unable to qualify for the Boston Marathon before he was diagnosed with Parkinson's, he wants her to run it for him, with his remains.

"I promised that to him so that is definitely something that one day, I will do," she said.

Curtain call. Majcher takes a bow.

When threaded together, these acts become a life story filled with powerful scenes, like that of Majcher visiting her grandmother who has become "a shell of her old self." Or one where she witnesses the launch of IRVE-3 at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. Or another where her parents sit in the audience proudly watching their only child as she sings her heart out.

It would probably include scenes that highlight her sense of humor: calling herself, "a nerd by day, singer by night" and a "back-of-the-pack runner."

Or possibly a scene that reveals Majcher's true running spirit after the recent bombings at the Boston Marathon: "It's unfortunate, but it definitely didn't knock us down and if anything, since that, I've seen locally, with Tidewater Striders and Peninsula Track Club, they've been having events in support of Boston and raising money for the victims," she says. "So, the running communities across the country have really just come together."

No matter the particular act, Majcher chooses to take life scene-by-scene, knowing there are plenty of performances, and curtain calls, yet to play out.

Denise Lineberry
NASA Langley Research Center

Arna Majcher
Arna Majcher is the lead scheduler for NASA's Game Changing Program Office, based at NASA's Langley Research Center.
Image Credit: 
NASA/David C. Bowman
Image Token: 
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Majcher as Glenda the Good Witch
One of Arna Majcher's most memorable performances was when she played 'Glenda the Good Witch' in The Wizard of Oz at the Smithfield Little Theatre. "I used to watch it growing up, so playing that role was a bit nostalgic for me," she said.
Image Credit: 
Courtesy Arna Majcher
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Page Last Updated: July 28th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator