Tag Archives: Bennett

The Bennetts and Their Little Bit of Luck

September 24, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Family life is hectic for everyone. Kids, work, school functions, sporting events…the list goes on and on. Add a family pet into the mix and it’s enough to make you wonder how it all gets done.

Angela and Rick Bennett of Bellevue have one such family. With four school-age children, they faced a question: “Is a dog one member too many?”

A few years ago, the Bennetts were looking for a dog to bring into their family. “We needed a dog that didn’t shed,” explains Angela. Two of her children, James, 12, and Julia, 7, have allergies. “We had a list of very specific breeds and thought we were going to have to look around for a while.”

As luck would have it, the family stopped into the Nebraska Humane Society on the same day that a Lhasa-Poo (a cross between a Lhasa Apso and a Poodle) puppy was put up for adoption—and his name just happened to be Lucky.

“In the beginning, the kids promised to do a lot of the work,” recalls Angela. For the most part, she says that they have kept their end of the bargain, with everyone taking turns cleaning up after Lucky, feeding him, and walking him.

She shares that her husband, Rick, made sure that each child had his or her own responsibilities in caring for Lucky, allowing the new family member to bond with everyone. Angela admits that it was difficult in the beginning. “When we first got him, he wasn’t nearly as easygoing as he is now,” she says. The Humane Society identified Lucky as a family-friendly choice, but the screening process can sometimes be an imperfect science. Lucky’s adjustment to his new home took some work. Angela says that he had a hard time getting used to the kids.

“When they would touch him, especially when he had some food in his dish, Lucky would bite them,” she says. Concerned by this behavior, Rick started to wonder if they might need to give the dog away. “We wouldn’t have given him away just because we didn’t want him, but obviously we didn’t want the kids—or their friends—to get hurt.”

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In an attempt to save Lucky, 15 year-old Erica closely observed the dog’s behavior and came up with a list of ten rules, written in Lucky’s voice, that each family member should follow. A copy was hung in each child’s bedroom.

Rules such as “Don’t bother me when I’m eating or have my bone,” “When I’m asleep, leave me alone…I’m not in the mood to play,” and “If I walk away, don’t grab me or keep me back” topped the list.

“I think it was mostly due to Erica’s rules that [we were able to keep] Lucky,” says Angela.

Anna, age 10, reminded her mother of another helpful hint: “Close the zipper on the trampoline, and don’t leave a stool out there when it’s open.”

After making a few other adjustments, such as crating Lucky during meals so that he wouldn’t beg for food, things are running smoothly at the Bennett home.

“Lucky is pretty laid-back,” says Angela. “He loves to sit at the door and just look out. But when he sees another dog, he gets a little crazy.”

Though Lucky is rather territorial, he does enjoy playing at the dog park. “Once he’s off his leash, he gets along with the other dogs. He’s never gotten into a fight with another dog at the park.”

The idea of bringing home a new dog is always fun and exciting. But soon reality sets in and difficult issues need to be worked out. Will the kids follow through on their responsibilities? How will Fido interact with the children?

“It’s a big commitment!” says Angela. Thankfully, for the Bennetts, they were able to find a way to resolve these unexpected issues within their own home and keep Lucky as a part of their family. “It was a little touchy with him [at first], about how he reacted to the kids,” says Angela. But she offers this advice: “Pay attention to the dog’s personality and be patient with the interaction between the dog and the kids.

“This is really corny, but we always said we were ‘Lucky’ to find him,” says Angela.

Michael Lyon

September 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

After years singing opera, this transplanted Brit finds a niche in American standards.

He studied with some of the world’s finest opera coaches and vocal teachers; sang the lead in famous operas like Tosca, La Bohéme, Aida, Pagliacci, and Madame Butterfly; performed as soloist for oratorios and masses by Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, and Verdi; and graced the main stage at Carnegie Hall as a featured soloist.

So why is Michael Lyon singing cover songs of Sinatra, Bennett, and Bublé for the Thursday-evening crowd at Ryan’s Bistro? He’s living his dream—a dream he has re-formed many times over.

“It took me until my mid-50s to understand that what I am is a performer,” says the singer in his West Omaha home. And what a performer he is!

Dressed casually in black, Lyon sings the standards with the air and confidence of a seasoned professional. His beautiful tenor voice carries a rich tone, but he holds back on the power his voice can reach. He hits high notes with ease and in tune. He’s smooth but never smarmy and keeps the schmaltz at bay. He doesn’t rely on gimmicks; he has the talent and training to let the music and lyrics do the talking.

 “…I knew down to my very toes that I had to sing opera.”

“We get people in here who think they’re listening to a recording, a sound system,” says Julia Stein, bar manager at Ryan’s. “He’s awesome. We love him here.”

Is this what Lyon envisioned over 30 years ago when he set out to be a great opera singer? No. Is he satisfied with his life as Omaha’s go-to tenor for special events? “Yes,” he says without hesitation. “I have become very adept at surviving in this world.”

Lyon’s world began in England’s county of Cornwall, where he grew up in a small dairy farming community. Neither parent displayed any musical abilities, so when their little son opened his mouth and made a beautiful sound, the only nurturing of his talent came from the school choir…until he got kicked out at age 10 for “goofing around.”

Lyon eventually channeled his feistiness into a single-mindedness that paved the way for his future. When he was about 20, he listened to a recording of an Italian opera “and I knew down to my very toes that I had to sing opera.” And so he did.

With newfound purpose, Lyon won a position with the Bristol Opera Company. Within a year and still without vocal training, he secured the lead in a production—as a baritone. “I then decided that I had to study seriously, which I did, and won several competitions,” explains Lyon.

“A guy was leaving Ryan’s and said…’How come you’re not somebody?’ And I said, ‘I am somebody, just not necessarily the somebody you want me to be.’”

Flush with confidence in his talent, Lyon emigrated in 1981 to Los Angeles, where he continued his vocal studies. He credits opera star Baldo dal Ponte for “giving me my high notes” and transforming him into a tenor. In 1984, Lyon met his future wife at an opera workshop. He and Kristin, an Omaha native, spent the next decade and a half performing in L.A.’s numerous opera and music theatre venues. They were at home on the stage and in demand, but singing didn’t pay the rent. The bottom fell out when both lost their day jobs within a month of each other.

Michael, Kristin, and son Max relocated to Omaha in 2000. With limited opportunities to pursue opera here, Michael and Kristin began a successful real estate career. Michael also teamed up with KIOS-FM as the local host of NPR’s “Morning Edition” from 5-10 a.m.

But Lyon, who retains only a tinge of an accent from his native England, knew his whole identity was wrapped up in singing. After an eight-year hiatus, he bought a sound system and remade himself into “a hip guy.” Word-of-mouth brought success quickly.

“An events planner at Stokes [Grill & Bar] told me about Michael,” says Chris Blumkin, a management consultant and wife of Ron Blumkin, the president of the Nebraska Furniture Mart. “We went to hear him at the Zin Room downtown. He has a genuine, warm way about him. We’ve hired him five times for corporate and family events.”

Lyon has never lost sight of who he is. That’s why sideways compliments from customers don’t faze him.

“A guy was leaving Ryan’s and said, ‘You’re so great. How come you’re not somebody?’ And I said, ‘I am somebody, just not necessarily the somebody you want me to be.’”