Omaha Performing Arts has Jazz Hands

Though there is no longer a formal jazz series at Omaha Performing Arts, there’s plenty for jazz fans to enjoy.

“We’re continuing to present amazing jazz artists that represent a variety of styles from Arturo O’Farrill to Lisa Fischer. Along with the changes we’ve made to the Holland Music Club, we have many wonderful shows planned for all our jazz fans,” said Joan Squires, president of Omaha Performing Arts.

Up first this season is a performance by Madeleine Peyroux in the Kiewit Concert Hall Sept. 29. Hot on the heels of that performance, Boz Scaggs takes the stage a week later on Oct. 6. Both shows begin at 7:30 pm.

New this year is the “Create Your Own” ticket package. Find all the details at ticketomaha.com.

The Gang’s All Here

The Omaha Area Youth Orchestra will start the season with a program featuring all of its ensembles: Youth Symphony, Youth Philharmonic, Youth Concert Strings and the new Percussion Ensemble. Music Director Aviva Segall says one of her goals for the OAYO is to perform works by historically under-performed composers. Pieces on the Nov. 14 concert include Dances in the Canebrakes, composed by Florence Price and arranged by William Grant Still, and A Joyous Trilogy by a young composer named Quinn Mason.

“He’s still in his 20s and is a tremendous composer for his age. This piece is joyful and interesting without sounding trite or forced in any way,” Segall said.

Segall said playing pieces from composers close in age to the OAYO musicians often inspires them to try their hand at composing.

“A lot of our students think of themselves as both musicians and composers at a high level,” she said.

Segall hopes to round out this concert with a piece by a former or current OAYO musician.

Concert information is available at oayo.org.

Bahl Conducts Beethoven, Bach and Britten

Ankush Bahl, Music Director of the Omaha Symphony

Maestro Ankush Kumar Bahl takes the stage as music director for the first time Sept. 24-26 at the Holland Center. The program features John Adams’ foxtrot, The Chairman Dances, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92 and William Grant Still’s Out of the Silence. Acclaimed jazz pianist Aaron Diehl joins the orchestra on George Gershwin’s Second Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra.

The Joslyn Symphony season gets underway Oct. 10 at 2 p.m. The concert starts with a journey to the Andes Mountains with living composer Gabriela Lena Frank’s Levendas: An Andean Walkabout for Strings. Another highlight of this program is Alexandra Rock, principal oboe, who will play Bach’s Concerto for Oboe d’amore. Benjamin Britten’s Simple Symphony finishes the performance.

Season information is online at omahasymphony.org.

New Twist on an Old Tale

Opera Omaha starts the season with a story about the most well-known pair of lovers in history, Romeo and Juliet. The Capulets and The Montagues is onstage at the Orpheum Theater Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 17 at 2 p.m. The production by ONE Festival’s artistic director, James Darrah, is dark and rich, exploring the ill-fated couple’s love and ultimate loss. The big twist? Vincenzo Bellini wrote the music for Romeo specifically for a mezzo soprano.

Cecelia Hall makes her Opera Omaha debut as Romeo. Returning soprano Andriana Chuchman is Juliet.

For ticket information, the website is operaomaha.org.

A Quick Q&A with Omaha Symphony’s New Music Director, Ankush Kumar Bahl

Ankush Bahl, Music Director of the Omaha Symphony

According to Bahl’s website: He has been a conducting fellow at the Aspen Music Festival with David Zinman and completed his master’s degree in orchestral conducting at the Manhattan School of Music with Zdenek Macal and George Manahan.

In recent years Bahl has been a frequent collaborator with jazz legend Wayne Shorter, leading his quartet in concerts of his orchestral music at both the Kennedy Center and the Detroit Free Jazz Festival. He has been lauded by both The Washington Post and The New York Times for his enthusiasm and his ability to leave audiences wanting more. He is the 13th music director of the Omaha Symphony.

Q: Your natural love of and affinity for music started very early in your life, didn’t it?

A: Oh yes. My mother used to take me to music events when I was between six months to a year old, and I started hitting her chest in rhythm with the music. It wasn’t too much longer (about age 5) before I decided I wanted to play different notes (pitches and not just rhythms) and that I wanted to play with other people. My brother played the violin and my sister the flute. I started playing violin and enjoyed it. But in fourth grade, the band director asked each of us what we wanted to do and play. He actually singled me out and said, “You have good ears, and you sing in tune perfectly right now. Do you want to play the French horn?’ It was such a beautiful sound, so I said yes. In high school, I started playing piano and was in the marching band, too. But once I took that elective class in conducting, I started to shift my focus.

Q: What drew you to the podium?

A: I liked music but felt I needed to make money, so I went to UC Berkeley and double majored. I took music classes for fun. Rhetoric was my second major. I had one upper division course in conducting. As soon as I took that class my instructor said, “You’re not that bad.” And I thought, “ha ha, I am going to be a lawyer or a doctor or a teacher.” But soon I started putting my own groups together and was conducting. My first orchestral concert I conducted Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

Q: What attracted you to this position?

A: I love the idea of working with such a high level of musicians. Thomas (Wilkins) built such a fantastic orchestra and organization and community. Everyone has buy-in because he showed them what the orchestra could be. I am lucky to have such a fertile situation here.

Q: I know you love education as much as performance when it comes to the music, right?

A: I enjoy speaking about the pieces and package what the audience is about to hear. I’m happy to bring my thoughts to a piece if you’ve never heard it. Ultimately, I want to bring the community beautiful concerts. I want us to be a vibrant part of the culture in downtown Omaha. The symphony is a living, breathing life form. And I want us to evolve the craft, to push it forward. I don’t want us becoming part of a museum culture by playing the same music over and over. I want to have concerts where people live. I love this idea of random acts of music. These don’t always have to happen in a concert hall setting. I also want to ensure the programming is relevant to the community, special to Omaha and recognized outside the city. Ultimately, I want to feature new and diverse composers, musicians and conductors, thinking about the wider community and giving Omaha a wonderful palette of colors to choose from.


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