Friday, May 29, 2009

JDRF Open Rehearsal & Meet and Greet with Alisa Weilerstein

Our season finale guest artist, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, is also a celebrity advocate for the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). Last night, Omaha-area JDRF kids and families had the special opportunity to hear Alisa rehearse with the Omaha Symphony and then meet her and hear her story. Learn more for yourself @

Season Finale PREVIEW!

By John Pitcher (Omaha World-Herald)

"Thomas Wilkins has already challenged the Omaha Symphony this season with Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" and Dvorák's Symphony No. 9 "From the New World."

This week, he ups the ante.

For the orchestra's final Masterworks program of the season, Wilkins will conduct Gustav Mahler's mighty Symphony No. 5.

"This is a work of truly gargantuan proportions," said Wilkins, the symphony's music director."

Enjoy the rest of the article here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Michael Kelly's OWH Column

Omaha World-Herald columnist Michael Kelly wrote an editorial about Omaha Symphony Music Director Thomas Wilkins for Tuesday's paper. Entitled "Team's A Game? It's in B flat," it gives you a better look at our magnificent maestro's background, what an average concert night is like for him, AND a taste of next season.


An amazing turnout for Patriotic Pops in the Park!!

More than 1,000 people turned out for our free outdoor concert at Playland Park in Council Bluffs this past Sunday. Big thanks to the Iowa West Foundation for making it possible. Here are some images from the beautiful evening!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Excited for the holiday weekend!

Patriotic Pops in the Park is THIS Sunday, May 24 at Playland Park in Council Bluffs. The concert starts at 7 PM. Just bring a picnic, a blanket or chairs: we'll bring the music...and lots of it! Expect familiar pieces you know and love.

FOR MORE information, check out this fantastic article in the Council Bluffs Nonpareil that explains the logistics and planning that have gone into this special event.

Read all about it!

Big thanks to the Iowa West Foundation for making it possible!

See you there!

(Check our website or 402.342.3560 x170 for weather updates/changes)

Monday, May 18, 2009

What can I do?

In a great article titled "Survival Strategies for the Arts," John Killacky offers tips on what audiences can do to help their local arts organizations survive and thrive in the tough economic climate:

P.S. Things audiences can do (and all of us are audience members). Go to Open Studios and buy art. Attend the symphony. Donate. Take salsa or tango lessons. Enjoy dance performances. Bring a friend. Donate. Sing with a chorus. Listen to live music. Donate. Write a poem, short story, or memoir. Buy a local author's book. Make art with your kids at home and at a museum's family day. Participate. Donate. Debate the merits of an independent film and then upload your own onto YouTube. Have a bake sale to support an artist residency in a nearby school. Host a season announcement, Tupperware-style, for friends. Commission an artist to commemorate a birthday or anniversary. When you love something, tell your friends. Word of mouth remains the best box office motivator.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Adorable image from the Bellevue Leader!

This wonderful photograph was taken by Tony Miceli with the Bellevue Leader at the "Mission: Imagination" educaton program. "Pre-kindergarten student Gabby Sjostedt conducts at St. Mary's School in late April. The program is for children in pre-kindergarten through third grade to interact with members of the Omaha Symphony in a non-formal setting."

We think it really captures the value and joy of our education programming!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Aspiring conductors from across the U.S. gather for unique training in Omaha

Imagine being a young conductor. If you don’t have a professional gig, where do you find an orchestra to lead? How do you get time on the conductor’s podium to perfect your craft?
The Omaha Symphony Conductor Symposium (May 21-24) offers up-and-coming conductors a chance to learn from established maestros and apply that knowledge with one of the Midwest’s finest orchestras. Through seminars and podium time, sixteen aspiring conductors will be equipped with the tools needed to succeed in present and future roles with American orchestras.
Coming from as far as New York, New Mexico, and Louisiana, participants will work with renowned music faculty including Mark Gibson (Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Director of Orchestral Studies & Conducting) and Omaha Symphony Music Director Thomas Wilkins.
“The orchestra is my instrument. One of the biggest challenges facing young conductors is simply finding an opportunity to practice their instrument!” said Maestro Wilkins. “This event is all about practical application—from how you interact with an audience to planning education concerts for kids.”
The Omaha Symphony Chamber Orchestra will serve as the orchestra for the Symposium. Each participant will get 45 minutes of podium time to work through the music with the players. Selections will include Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, Copland’s Appalachian Spring, Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4, and Schubert’s Octet.
“This is a rare opportunity for emerging conductors and a special outreach for the Omaha Symphony. We are one of only a handful of professional orchestras who invest in the next generation of leaders in such a comprehensive way,” said Jennifer Boomgaarden, Director of Education and Community Partnerships.

"Music with the Maestro": Unknown Gems

Omaha Symphony Music Director Thomas Wilkins shares with KVNO listeners and co-host Joe Toppi some "classical delights that are rarely programmed." Here are some of the unknown gems you'll hear them discuss and play:

Anthiel's Symphony No. 5

Walker's Lyric for Strings

Britten's Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge

Ibert's Bacchanale


Thursday, May 7, 2009

"Music with the Maestro" on KVNO: A 2009/10 Musical Preview

Listen as Maestro Thomas Wilkins shares a 2009/10 season preview with KVNO's Joe Toppi. Season highlights discussed (and played) are:

Copland's 3rd Symphony
Beethoven's 5th Symphony




Tuesday, May 5, 2009

In the mood for Mozart?

Get your fix this Saturday at an all-Mozart concert, featuring Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and other popular favorites! Tickets start at just $15... 345-0606. 7 PM at the Holland Performing Arts Center

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Review: Bennett's clarinet gives symphony that swing


Has Thomas Wilkins learned how to raise legendary jazz musicians from the dead?

Nah, he's just discovered one prodigious clarinet player who happens to sound — and look — a lot like a young Benny Goodman.

Not that Dave Bennett — the 24-year-old clarinet phenom playing with Wilkins and the Omaha Symphony this weekend at the Holland Performing Arts Center — is an impersonator.

This guy's no Vegas act.

Rather, he's a bona fide clarinet virtuoso who plays blistering passages with dead-on intonation, just like the late, great King of Swing.

Well, there's no reason to doubt Bennett, who insists that the physical similarities between himself and Goodman are purely coincidental. Sure, Bennett has a penchant for dark suits and old-fashioned haircuts. But so do most U.S. congressmen.

Besides, Bennett has been wearing his trademark Goodman-style glasses since childhood, long before he ever heard "Bugle Call Rag" or any of the other terrific songs he played Friday night.

From the outset, Bennett and Wilkins transformed the Omaha Symphony into a convincing big band.

They played Goodman's theme song, "Let's Dance," with plenty of swing and playful attitude — Goodman's final notes were like a mirthful chuckle.

Their medley performances of "Stomping at the Savoy," "Moonglow" and other familiar numbers were warmly nostalgic.

That said, Bennett is also no period musician, and his performances seemed anything but antiquarian.

His extended improvisational flights of fancy in George Gershwin's "I've Got Rhythm" were wild enough to turn Sonny Rollins green with envy. Indeed, Bennett is the first improviser I've heard mix Gershwin with "The Flintstones Theme."

Bennett's outstanding quintet — pianist Tad Weed, drummer Peter Siers, bassist Paul Keller, guitarist Hugh Leal and vocalist Carol McCartney — were just as impressive. In fact, Weed's Gershwin solo seemingly condensed the composer's entire songbook into about two minutes — excluding his oblique references to "Rhapsody in Blue."

McCartney, meanwhile, sang such tunes as "Why Don't You Do Right" with a silky top register and breathy low notes.

For his part, Wilkins proved to have a real affinity for this music, conducting with vibrancy and romantic sweep.

Wilkins, of course, is the symphony's classical musical director, but he insists on conducting at least one pops concert a year. He claims it's to make a point — that the pops concerts are as important as the classical ones.

True, but I suspect the real reason is that he loves this music.