Tag Archives: Kim Reiner

Orchestrated by God, Encouraged by Parents

March 12, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

At his first public concert, a benefit for disabled children in Ecuador, Washington Garcia realized that he was put on Earth to serve others through music. “It was a revealing moment,” Garcia says.

He was only 7 years old.

The next enlightening moment came when he was 10. He played and won his first national competition. The boy realized that he could earn money playing the piano.

Every step along his career has involved meeting the right people who could help at the right time. It’s something he and his parents believe God has orchestrated, placing him on a path that enables him to serve and give to a new generation of young artists.

That path led to Omaha in 2016. Today, the former child prodigy from Ecuador is the director of the School of Music at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

He started down his musical path at an early age, reaching for the piano as an infant and trying to recreate music before he was in school. “It was natural when we were little, my parents wanted us to be involved in music,” Garcia says.

At age 4, he tagged along with his 6-year-old sister to the music conservatory. By the end of the school year, his sister’s teacher contacted Garcia’s mother, Miryam Eljuri, and told her that he was a prodigy.

Miryam knew at that moment Garcia’s wish to play music was something the family had to support.

“Washington’s success was achieved as a team,” Miryam says through her son’s translation. It was Miryam who helped him apply for the Kennedy Center cultural exchange program in his teens, Miryam who lined up an airline sponsorship to fly her son around the world for his concerts.

Garcia’s father, also named Washington Garcia and one of the most respected neurosurgeons in Ecuador, helped as well, driving his son to classes and guiding him to become a responsible young man.

At age 18, Garcia simultaneously graduated high school and college, earning a Bachelor of Music from the National Conservatory of Music in Ecuador. By then, he’d played with the national symphony and performed for a former Chilean president. He’d won first prizes at the Guillermo Wright-Vallarino National Piano Competition in Quito, the Elizabeth Davis Memorial Piano Competition and the 19th International Young Artist Piano Competition in Washington, D.C., the 2004 Baltimore Music Club Piano Competition, and the Harrison Winter Piano Competition.

Garcia was accepted into the Kennedy Center cultural exchange program, earning a $25,000 fellowship to help cover his master’s studies at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. He graduated at age 20, returning later to complete a doctorate. At 25, Garcia became the youngest Latin American pianist to have ever earned a doctorate performance degree from the university.

Throughout his studies, he cultivated an impressive international concert portfolio, which up to that point, included performances and lectures in Asia and Europe. His desire to continue playing while helping students led him to a career in education. He taught seventh and eighth graders in Baltimore before taking his calling to a higher level.

Garcia became an assistant professor of piano at Texas State University. In nine years, he rose in rank to become the appointed chair of the keyboard area and then the assistant director. It was a dream position, allowing him to work with more people, fundraise, build relationships internationally, and play music. He knew his next step in life was to become a director of a music school.

He was hired at UNO in January 2016.

His career path has taken him around the world, and so, his choice to reside in Omaha has puzzled some people. He tells them that he fell in love with the friendliness of the city and the culture of the school on his first visit.

“The faculty at the school of music was so talented and so collegial that I fell in love with them,” Garcia says. “We have one of the best faculty in Nebraska. It’s a collaborative faculty, and this is huge, because it doesn’t matter how good you are if you cannot collaborate with others.”

Already, Garcia has helped establish an international concert series at the school. In the next year, he hopes to begin renovating UNO facilities, including adding another concert hall; start a radio broadcast program to showcase students; and increase community engagement with other organizations.

The School of Music already has a student recital series at First Christian Church and, in the fall, will begin another one at Gallery 1516. At the end of March, the school will be among many cultural institutions performing at the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping and FEI World Cup Dressage Finals at the CenturyLink Center. In 2019, he hopes to launch an international music festival in Omaha.

“My goal is to continue to establish Omaha as one of the most important cultural and academic destinations in the U.S.,” Garcia says.

It’s an exciting time at UNO, according to Garcia. And it’s exciting for his family. While visiting over Christmas to see Garcia and his wife’s newborn son, Garcia’s parents spoke about their son’s career.

“Obviously, he came here with a clear mission and vision from God,” Garcia’s father says. “I know that he is going to fulfill his mission here in Omaha.”

Garcia will debut with the Omaha Symphony Orchestra Oct. 8 at Joslyn Art Museum. He will perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor, K. 466 under the baton of maestro Thomas Wilkins. Visit washingtongarcia.com for more information.

From left: Miryam Eljuri, Washington A. Garcia, and Washington H. Garcia

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Meet the Reiners

September 2, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The new library located in Metcalfe Park is doing a brisk business. Oh, you didn’t know that the park in the Country Club neighborhood had its own library? At about 20 cubic inches, this “library”—a simple house-shaped box on a pedestal—could be easy to miss…except, of course, for all the kids usually gathered around it selecting children’s books while following a “take-one-leave-one” lending policy.

The open-air library is the work of Kim Reiner, who is a public relations coordinator with Omaha Performing Arts. She and husband, Kevin, are the parents of Henry (4), and Charlotte (2).

Kim is also a blogger, and her “Oh My! Omaha” site is a parent’s guide to the city.

That’s how Kim got into the library business to begin with. Post Alpha Bits cereal had contacted hyper-local bloggers across the nation with an offer to supply one of their Little Free Library kits in an effort to promote early childhood literacy.

Perhaps as much as any single space in Omaha, Metcalfe Park represents the classic melting pot view of what it means to be an American. Little girls in hijabs play with Somali refugees who play with Burmese children—most too young to understand the gift that their parents have given them in bringing them to our country.

“Many of the kids who play in the park are learning English,” Kim explains, “so it’s really inspiring to know that their first book in their new world—their very first book in English—might just be one from the Little Free Library.”

“Take it another step,” adds Kevin, “and think about the idea that many of those kids’ parents may be learning the language through the same books. It’s been said that countless immigrants have learned English by watching Sesame Street with their kids, so I picture moms and dads and kids all learning together with the children’s books that flow through that library.”

Kevin also works in the creative world as a digital media producer with Clark Creative Group. You’ve probably seen a million of his TV commercials and other projects but, just like Kim, he’s also played a role in delivering fine art magic on the Orpheum Theater stage and beyond. Kevin created the animations that became the projected backdrops for the Jun Kaneko-designed productions of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (Opera Omaha), Beethoven’s Fidelio (The Opera Company of Philadelphia), and Mozart’s The Magic Flute (Washington National Opera).

So it’s no surprise that Henry and Charlotte are being raised in an environment where they are immersed in art and culture.

“It’s kind of a hit-or-miss experiment every time we take in a show in terms of learning what the kids are now old enough to sit through,” Kim says, “but it’s great to experience theater and other cultural events through the lens of your kids. You take in a production in entirely new ways when your kids are by your side.”

Henry, Kim and Kevin explain, is a builder of considerable talent. Just give him enough of anything—from Legos to lima beans—and he’ll soon assemble an impressive architectural feat of some kind, ones that usually incorporate a wildly imaginative collection of other, seemingly unrelated found objects.

“He’s a mixed media artist,” Kevin adds with a chuckle.

The young boy is also pretty good with movie and book quotes. When a recent shopping trip found Henry crossing the threshold of a local big box store—the one with the red bullseye logo—he was compelled to blurt out “You’re not the Target market, weirdo,” in echoing a line from the film The Lorax.

“And then there was the ‘As you wish’ kick that came after we watched The Princess Bride,” adds Kim. “He was begging for a bonus bedtime story one night and I finally caved with an ‘Okay, okay’ when he corrected me and said ‘No, mom, you’re supposed to say ‘as you wish,’ just like in the movie.”

Charlotte is described by the Reiners as being perhaps a bit more extroverted than her brother. “Henry is more gentle-goofy,” Kim says, “and Charlotte is more spirited. She’s a force to be reckoned with.”

“We’ll go to, say, Jazz on the Green,” Kevin says, “and Charlotte is the kid that will plop down next to any group of people and just start chatting away.”

Charlotte’s dreamland domain of late is the backyard sandbox. The adorable tot was encrusted almost head-to-toe in a rime of sand the evening of the interview.

“That’s where we look whenever anything goes missing in the house,” Kim quips. “We check the sandbox first.”

“Yeah, like that’s where we found last night’s leftover pizza dough,” Kevin winks.