The Omaha Symphony’s annual holiday performance includes children, and the appearance of a group of young musicians with their small violins in hand always gets a reaction from the audience.
“The last couple of years we’ve had about 40 kids on the stage. Whenever the littlest ones come out, the audience gasps audibly,” says their instructor, Anne Nagosky.
She owns Nagosky Violin and Viola Studio, with a roster of approximately 70 students, and she’s been a full-time violinist with the Omaha Symphony since 1998. She started out as a child violinist herself, first asking for lessons after a kindergarten classmate brought in a violin for show-and-tell, then beginning instruction at age 7.
“I actually didn’t want to be a professional musician for most of my growing-up years,” Nagosky says. “But I worked hard all that time.”
Luckily for Nagosky, her hometown of Bloomington, Indiana, is home to the world-class Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, and some of the best string teachers in the world. Her first violin teacher, Mimi Zweig, is the current director of the school’s Summer String Academy. Although several of her school-age classmates dreamed of a life onstage, Nagosky never pursued a music career until she attended music camp the summer before her junior year of high school.
“I have to say that I would not have had the chance to make that choice so late had I not had such a good foundation,” she says. In college, she began teaching occasional private string lessons.
“I realized that not only did I enjoy it, I had an aptitude for teaching. It was not necessarily something I pictured I would end up doing, but as I did it more and more I realized how rewarding it was,” Nagosky explains. “As much as I love performing—and that’s still my other job and the other part of my life—I think my most rewarding musical experiences have all been as a teacher.”
Nagosky started her own studio in Omaha 20 years ago. She’s taught students as young as age 3 as well as older youth and even some adult students, but the majority of her students are children.
“I just feel like I feel I have a particular strength working with children,” she says.
Her students first appeared onstage with the Omaha Symphony in 2003.
“Watching professionals perform shows a student what’s possible,” she says. “It’s great for students to have the perspective of, ‘What could I do and what is possible if I continue to work hard?’ The kids see the symphony musicians, and, especially for the younger kids, it’s kind of like seeing rock stars.”
The annual holiday performance on stage with the area’s most talented musicians brings out the best in her young performers, Nagosky adds, and they are invigorated for months afterward.
“Kids can do a lot more than we sometimes expect of them,” she says. “That’s one thing I’ve learned as a teacher; that there’s nothing wrong with having high expectations.”