Tag Archives: OEAAs

2019 OEAA Winners Announced

January 28, 2019 by
Photography by Debra S. Kaplan

The 13th Annual Omaha Entertainment & Arts Awards celebrated another year of prosperity and dedication to the arts last night, Jan. 27, at the Slowdown. View Omaha Magazine’s livestream of the awards on Facebook (click here).

Hosts Beaufield Berry and Dominique Morgan opened the show with witty banter balanced between heartfelt sentiment and unreserved laughter. Other presenters throughout the evening kept up the hilarity with a flask bracelet, creative name (mis)pronunciations, and a running joke about a limp microphone that just couldn’t keep it up.

As winners’ names flashed across the screen, some of the most hardworking and talented Omaha creatives made their way towards the stage to accept their awards. In a happy misfortune, several winners were unable to attend due to active tours or performances, a testament to the commitment and success these artists are living. For those winners in attendance, an ongoing theme emerged through the acceptance speeches: a love for Omaha, overwhelming support between fellow artists, and many shout-outs to moms.

Lifetime Achievement Award-winner Houston Alexander said it best: “It’s never been about me; it’s always been about we.” The hip-hop artist, DJ, and athlete was honored for all his contributions to Omaha’s creative scene and his passion for helping other artists pursue their dreams. “We are here for all the artists and all the artistry in this building,” he said.

The evening featured uplifting and moving performances by several nominees and winners, including Pony Creek,  Trac Schacht, and Esencia Latina. Artist of the Year Award-winner Jocelyn also took to the stage with a last-minute song change to her new track, “Not in Your Name.”

Many thanks to the OEAA board of directors, sponsors, and donors for making this celebration of Omaha’s artistry happen. Omaha Magazine is honored to be a media sponsor of the awards. For more information on how you can support the OEAA and local artists, visit oea-awards.org.

See below for a full list of winners in 2019, and don’t forget to cast your vote in the 2020 awards (open now).

2019 OEAA Winners

Music

Best Rock: Freakabout
Best Hard Rock: Arson City
Best Alternative/Indie: See Through Dresses
Best Metal: Supermoon
Best DJ: SharkWeek
Best Americana/Folk: Andrea von Kampen
Best Country: Clarence Tilton
Best R&B: Dominique Morgan
Best Soul: Mesonjixx
Best Hip Hop/Rap: Dilla Kids
Best Blues: Hector Anchondo
Best Jazz: Mitch Towne
Best Pop: Jocelyn
Best Progressive Rock/Experimental/EDM: Plaque Blague
Best Punk: R.A.F.
Best World Music: The Bishops
Best Cover Band: Secret Weapon
Local Album of the Year: High Places, Matt Cox
Artist of the Year: Jocelyn
Best New Artist: Evandale
Best Recording Studio: ARC Studios
Best Live Music Sound Engineer: Dan Brennan

Lifetime Achievement Award

Houston Alexander

Visual Arts

Best Visual Artist: Watie White
Best Emerging Visual Artist: Celeste Butler
Best 2-D Artist: Camille Hawbaker Voorhees
Best 3-D Artist: Bart Vargas
Best New Media Artist: Ella Weber
Best Group Show: Museum of Alternative History at KANEKO
Best Solo Show: Love is a Rippling Circle, Camille Hawbaker Voorhees
Best 2-Person Show: Everything All At Once, Victoria Hoyt & Camille Hawbaker Voorhees
Best Public Art: 100 People, Watie White
Best Presentation in a Non-Traditional Format: Cream on Top at The Butter Factory

Performing Arts

Best Director (Play): Denise Chapman, The Mountaintop
Best Director (Musical): Jerry Jay Cranford, Newsies
Best Actor (Play): Bill Hutson, Eminent Domain
Best Actor (Musical): Regina Palmer, Once On This Island
Best Supporting Actor (Play): Raydell Cordell III, Stupid F#%*ing Bird
Best Supporting Actor (Musical): Cathy Hirsch, Singin’ In The Rain
Best Youth Performer: Chloe Irwin, Parade
Best Dramatic Play: Eminent Domain, Omaha Community Playhouse
Best Comedic Play: Stupid F*king Bird, Omaha Community Playhouse
Best Premiere of a New, Original, Local Script: Laura Campbell, Eminent Domain
Best Musical: Newsies, Rose Theater
Best Dance Production: African Culture Connection
Best Performance Poet: Trac Schact
Best Comedian: Aubree Sweeney
Best Comedy Ensemble: Live! At the Backline
Outstanding Lighting Design: Ernie Gubbels, The City in the City in the City
Outstanding Prop Design: Amy Reiner, The City in the City in the City
Outstanding Scenic Design: Robyn Helwig, Josh Mullady & Ben Adams, The Dairy Maid-Right
Outstanding Costume Design: Erin Bragg, Van Gogh and Me
Outstanding Sound Design: John Gibilisco, Eminent Domain
Outstanding Choreographer: Sue Gillespie Booton, Newsies
Outstanding Music Direction: Doran Schmidt, Spring Awakening


Visit oea-awards.org for more information.

Music-all Weekend

January 24, 2019 by

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Pick of the Week—Sunday, Jan. 27: What better way to end a music-filled weekend than by celebrating all the artists of Omaha? You can do so by attending the OEAAs at Slowdown this Sunday. Voting for the awards is separated into visual arts, performing arts, and live music. You’ll get to see performances by Pony Creek, Jocelyn Music, Trac Schacht, Esencia Latina, DJ SharkWeek, and Omaha Magazine’s own resident DJ, Stephen Bils. Our executive editor Doug Meigs will be volunteering on site. So if you can’t make it out, you can still catch some of the action on our social media. Learn more and get your tickets here.

Thursday, Jan. 24: Want to hear some blues music that will make you dance? The Bel Airs can make that happen tonight at Chrome Lounge. These guys have played together for more than 20 years, so expect a tight performance. Based out of Columbia, Missouri, the group has traveled across the U.S. and around Europe, and this is your chance to catch them live in Omaha. For a preview of what to expect, click here.

Friday, Jan. 25 and Saturday, Jan. 26: This newsletter wouldn’t be complete without a little do-good, feel-good event. The UNMC Skate-a-Thon for Parkinson’s Nebraska is happening this weekend at the UNMC Ice Rink. You can skate as an individual, with your family, or get a team together and try to “Rock the Clock.” Sign up now or just get out and cheer on the dedicated skaters giving it their all. You can purchase tickets here, and learn more about Parkinson’s Nebraska here.

Friday, Jan. 25: Check out a lot of live, local music Friday night when you brave the cold to head to The Waiting Room for the fourth annual NugZ & TKO Birthday Concert. The guys will take the stage with special guests Fr!day, Altura, and Rey Styles. Turn out to help them celebrate their birthdays the best way they know how—with a great show that will be sure to bring the heat. Get your tickets here now.

Saturday, Jan. 26: The music keeps flowing with a special show at Reverb Lounge this Saturday, where you can catch CJ Mills with Mesonjixx & Kethro (all of whom have had features in our magazines you can read here: CJ Mills, Mesonjixx, Kethro). Singer/songwriter Mills has always had a powerful voice and clever lyrics, and since moving to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she has expanded upon her sound. Don’t miss this performance. RSVP on Facebook, and grab your tickets here.

Find a Little Truth in Music

January 10, 2019 by

Pick of the Week—Saturday, Jan. 12: Mind and Soul 101.3 FM is celebrating their second year on the air this Saturday. Mind & Soul is a community-powered radio station right here in Omaha. If you’re a fan of theirs, be sure to get out and show your support at Mind and Soul’s 2 Year Anniversary Celebration. Never heard of them? This is your chance to learn more and to meet the faces behind the voices. If you absolutely can’t make it, be sure to watch the Omaha Magazine Facebook Live video from on-air talent (and occasional contributing Omaha Magazine writer) Mark McGaugh, aka Buddi3 da Gawd. For more information about the event, click here. Learn more about Mind and Soul here.

Friday, Jan. 11: Feeling moved to make a difference? Help the children of Flint, Michigan, by attending Flint Fest at The Waiting Room Lounge. For a mere $7 ($10 day of show), you’ll get to see Cult Play, J. Crum, On 2 Galaxies, Jocko, and Motel Martyr. Between all that music and the “helper’s high” you’ll get for doing good should make for a great end to the week. Find out more here.

Friday, Jan. 11: Jump the Tiger will have O’Leaver’s patrons jumping out of their seats this Friday. Of course they’ll have a little help from other local acts, Ocean Black and FLUX AMUCK. This is only their second show with a new lead singer, so be sure to check them out. Jump on over here for more info. (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

Saturday, Jan. 12: Unfamiliar with Evandale’s music? Get to Forte Music Hall and Bar for the Evandale CD Release Party and find out what all the fuss is about. The members of Evandale haven’t been together long, but they were already nominated for an OEAA this year. Plus, there are so many bands playing this show, it would be crazy to miss it. Punch it here for more information.

Sunday, Jan. 13: Ever found yourself enjoying “The Thistle and Shamrock” on NPR on a Sunday afternoon? Yes? Then you should head to the Irish Music Sessions at Brazen Head Pub (also on Sundays). Occurring every second Sunday of the month (except March), these sessions are hosted by Irish music legend Peter Brennan, though all are welcome to join in. But if you don’t have a musical bone in your body, you can still go listen, grab a drink and some dinner, and enjoy the show. Call ahead, though. These Irish bards can draw a crowd, so be sure to make a reservation. Learn more here

Three Bands, Three Venues

November 27, 2018 by
Photography by Seth Jones

The Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards introduced a handful of 2018’s top local artists at this year’s Nominee Showcase on November 16th. The night featured over 15 performances (including bands, DJs, hip-hop artists, and comedians) at three venues located in the heart of Omaha’s Benson neighborhood: Barley Street Tavern, The B Side of Benson Theatre, and Burke’s Pub. The OEAA nominees—voted for by citizens throughout the metro—represent a variety of works that span visual arts, performing arts, and live music. Omaha Magazine has always had a taste for the best, so we hit the streets of Benson to hear some of 2018’s top talent performed live.

Win/Win at the Barley Street Tavern
2735 N. 62nd St.

Tucked just 50 yards away from the bustle of Maple Street is the unassuming Barley Street Tavern. With its triangular roof and traditional white paneling, it could easily be mistaken for a residential home if not for the illuminated, looping letters of its welcome sign and the steady stream of visitors coming and going below. Inside, a glossy countertop reflects a kaleidoscope of glass bottles and trinkets hanging behind the bar, guiding guests toward a second room, where Win/Win has taken over the stage.

The indie-pop-rock band is nominated under the category of best new artist, but the four-member group seem relaxed under the spotlight as they joke with audience members between songs reminiscent of Weezer mixed with something totally original. Win/Win’s set finishes to rollicking applause from the packed crowd and a request to play again soon (please?).

Us and Them at the B Side of Benson Theatre
6058 Maple St.

The B Side’s stage (a small platform just on the other side of the wall) gives those on the street an interesting view, the glass front letting pedestrians and drivers on Maple Street feel like a part of the crowd, if only for a fleeting moment. Performers look inward, to a room of colorfully tiled tables. Audience members face the entrance, giving passersby outside an immersive, almost one-way mirror effect as they step into the light and view the B Side from the performer’s perspective.

Us and Them, a ten-piece band nominated in the category of best blues, crowd onto that platform with keyboard, guitars, trumpet, saxophones, bass, and drum set in tow, plus microphones and two vocalists. If the size of the group didn’t already have the audience’s attention, the musicians’ ages caught it. The band is comprised of nine teenagers and an even younger guitarist. The crowd shows their appreciation for the talented troupe by cheering and dancing along to soulful originals, energetic solos, and spirited covers.

Satellite Junction at Burke’s Pub
6117 Maple St.

‘Burke’s Pub’ is printed in bold letters against a white backdrop on the building’s exterior, welcoming everyone to join in on the fun at this bar and music venue. Endless free popcorn and groups of people chatting, playing games, and ordering drinks fill the place, spilling through a doorway and behind the bar where Satellite Junction is just warming up.

Sparse seating options had viewers on their feet and up close with this rock band. Satellite Junction’s members performed original songs with high-energy, and the crowd packed tightly together as the music drew more people into the room (including members of Win/Win). Nothing says Omaha like catching a live show and then grabbing a beer with the band right down the street—while you’re both checking out another band.


The OEAA Nominee Showcase was just a sample of Omaha’s overwhelming artistic talent and the numerous benefits art and music bring to our community. Winners in each category will be announced at the 13th Annual Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards on January 27, 2019 at Slowdown. A full list of this year’s nominees and ticket information is available at oea-awards.org.

It’s a Makers Weekend

November 15, 2018 by

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Pick of the WeekFriday, Nov. 16:  This Friday is full of good things, thanks to the OEAA Showcases happening at some of your favorite, local music joints in Benson. You can check out full lineups at Burke’s Pub, The B Side, and Barley Street Tavern, or bounce around to catch your favorites. For only $10, your wristband will get you in to see over 15 performances featuring bands, DJs, hip-hop artists, and comedians. Why would you spend your night anywhere else? Get the whole setlist here.

Thursday, Nov. 15:  It’s a magical night at Bayliss Park as they celebrate Winterfest. This free event marks the kickoff of a festive winter wonderland in the park. With Santa, hot cocoa, reindeer, and carolers, tonight will definitely get you in the mood for some holiday fun. Don’t miss the lighting ceremony and a showing of Frosty the Snowman. For the full rundown, click here.

Friday, Nov. 16 to Sunday, Nov. 18: Shopping for the perfect gift for your loved ones? Be sure to check out Junktoberfest at the Southroads Mall in Bellevue where you can choose from collectibles, crafts, handmade pieces, and more. There will also be food and entertainment available for when you need a break from all the mall walking. You have the whole weekend to check it out, but don’t wait until the last day if you want to get the good stuff. Head here for more information.

Saturday, Nov. 17: It’s part Santa’s workshop, part science fair at SAC Museum this Saturday. Their Makers Market celebrates invention, creativity, and resourcefulness, with everyone from engineers to hobbyists to craft brewers in attendance. This is an event for the whole family to experience new forms of arts and technologies. Be sure to check out the puppet shows, yoga workshops, and musical performances throughout the day. Did I mention the duct tape Transformers? (Yes, that’s all duct tape!) Get the full list of all the many ways they’ll have to entertain and educate here.

Sunday, Nov. 18: Spend your lazy, Sunday afternoon supporting local talent at OutrSpaces with poet A.J.K O’Donnell. An Afternoon with A.J.K. O’Donnell will help fund an extension of her book tour, so let’s make it work. Pre-sale tickets include a signed copy of her latest book, This Void Beckons. They will also include early entrance & seating, appetizers, an open bar, and several other perks. There will also be time for dialogue and questions for the author. To learn more, just tap here.

 

Final Dog Days of Summer

September 20, 2018 by

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Pick of the Week—Saturday, Sept. 23: Puppies and pumpkins? Why not? Take your pup to Dog Day at the Pumpkin Patch at Skinny Bones Pumpkin Patch in Blair. Doggie admission of $5 will benefit the Nebraska Humane Society. Regular admission will apply for you humans. Be sure your pups are dressed for success in the doggie costume contest. The contest takes place in the morning, with all the regular fall fun happening throughout the day. Check out the Rolling Racers, Jack O’ Shooter, Frankenslide, and numerous other attractions. There’s plenty of food on hand as well, so make a day of it and end the night with a bonfire. Learn more here.

Thursday, Sept. 20: Get an early start on tailgating this weekend at the Midlands Humane Society “Tail”gate. While there’s no stadium involved, you can take a tour of the facility, learn about volunteer opportunities, and (best of all) spend time with the beautiful critters. This event is put on by the young professionals group, Impact CB. Parking is somewhat limited, so get your friends together and carpool on over. Find out more here.

Friday, Sept. 21: Don’t miss the inaugural show at The Hug Center, a new arts-focused community event space on 25th and Harney streets. Bang, Bang will showcase work by several talented artists, some well-known and others brand-new (check out 10-year-old Finn Michael Bainbridge) to the Omaha art scene. Music by Dojorok and Cult Play will help set the mood. A food truck will be on hand and beverages from Brickway Brewery & Distillery will also be available for the 6-10 p.m. event to provide you with ample sustenance as you peruse the gallery and meet the artists. Get the full rundown here.

Saturday, Sept. 22: Can’t wait to find out who’s up for an OEAA nomination this year? Well, you don’t have to because the wait is over. Head to the OEAA Nominee Reveal Party at Hi-Fi House this Saturday and be one of the first in the know. Cheer on your favorites as their names are announced live. here.

Saturday, Sept. 22: The fall equinox marks the official end of summer this Saturday, so feel free to start settling in to Halloween anticipation mode with Midwest Masquerade at The Waiting Room and Reverb Lounge. This annual event combines the winsome, electric vibe of a music festival with the elegant, mysterious feel of a traditional masquerade ball. The headlining artists are String Theory Music and Hyddin, with many more talented artists rounding things out. Formal attire (with mask!) is highly recommended for this 18 and over affair. Get your tickets here.

Heart and Soul

May 19, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Edem K. Garro has a penchant for spontaneous musical combustion—meaning that it’s quite common for her to break into song mid-sentence. Like a chemical reaction right before your eyes, elements of passion, sheer musical talent, and miscellaneous magical mystery ingredients move Garro to express herself musically.

Garro says a love of music has always been within her and she’s been breaking into song her whole life. As a child, she religiously tuned in for Showtime at the Apollo—where the talented are cheered on and the talent-challenged are booed offstage—determined to become “undeniably good.” Her innate musical knack and her mother’s “brutally honest” guidance steered her toward that goal. Much like the ethos of the Apollo, Garro believes that “both negativity and positivity help mold and shape us into the Davids or the Mona Lisas we really are.”

“I would sing and my mother would say, ‘Why are you always singing somebody’s else’s song? Why not sing your own song? You’re just as good.’ So I started writing my own music,” Garro says. “Her constructive criticism helped shape me into who I am today. Even though at the time I just wanted to enjoy my TV show, she instilled this sense that I could be great if I worked at it. That you can do anything with practice and passion.”

Garro, who typically performs as Edem Soul Music, is a composer, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, motivational speaker, and “a musician at heart.” Similar to her diverse pursuits, Garro’s musical style is a delicious gumbo of genres including world, soul, R&B, folk, and more—bordered only by what moves her soul and the souls of her listeners. Her musical mission, after all, is “to revive music, and to bring it back to the loving arms of the people who long for it.”

“When people think of soul music they think of the Temptations, Motown Records, James Brown, but soul has no genre. Soul is something that comes from an indescribable, immeasurable place and it reaches everyone—no matter what language or belief, it reaches everyone—that is true soul music,” Garro says. “My genres are all over the place, but I am soul music in every essence of the word. I produce music and words from my soul and I can’t do anything else.”

Garro, a 26-year-old Maryland native who’s lived in Omaha since age 11, when her father died and her mother relocated the family, says her work as a motivational speaker is an extension of her music.   

“Everything I do, from songwriting to speaking, focuses on bringing awareness to identity,” Garro says. “I’m a first-generation American and my whole family comes from Ghana, West Africa. My culture teaches that it’s important to know where you come from, because once you understand where you come from, you’ll know why you are where you are, and then once you know that, you can better figure out where you’re going. With that comes a sense of power and certainty that no one can take from you. Finding out your identity, staying true to it, and loving yourself, is the best way to navigate this life and ensure some form of growth. That’s my message.”

Although it’s a shame to box it in, Garro’s music is most easily defined as world music because she sings in English and Ga, a language spoken in and around Ghana’s capital of Accra. She also sings in what she calls “no language.”   

“I mostly sing in Ga and English, sometimes both. But when I sing in no language, it’s just pure, raw, emotion and intent,” Garro says. “I find it beautiful because you and I are on the same page regardless of language. Music crosses all barriers and you don’t have to understand the language to find it beautiful. It promotes a different kind of thought and understanding.”

Edem Soul Music consists of a wide array of styles and production. Garro sings and plays the ukulele, harp, piano, guitar, djembe, violin, and alto saxophone. As a multi-instrumentalist, she is largely self-taught. Often, she plays with flutist/percussionist Jason Horacek and support vocalists/dancers Brittney Thompson and LaTryce McAnderson.

Garro had a banner year in 2017. She was a fellow in The Union for Contemporary Art’s inaugural cohort where she created her emotive Sounds of 24th St. project, incorporating the 24th and Lake soundscape into her music. She also earned Omaha Creative Institute’s Omaha Gives Back Grant, which birthed her three-act project African Body, Soul, & Movement, a musical exploration of generations affected by the African slave trade through African drumming, singing, and dancing. Garro kept the momentum and mojo flowing, winning her first Omaha Entertainment and Arts Award for Best Soul in February 2018.     

“In 2017 I started to feel like the community that wants to support and advocate for artists was really coming together,” Garro says. “My [Union] residency allowed for my growth as an artist and an individual—to define who I really want to be and how I want to serve this community. It was a road to self-discovery.”

Garro embraces Omaha’s influence on her identity. She muses that had her father not passed and her mother not subsequently been called to move the family to Omaha, Garro may never have met her husband or “come to know music the way I have.”

“I’ve grown a lot here and become who I’m meant to be,” Garro says. “I always say that one person’s ripple in the ocean can create a tsunami on the other side of the world. We have each others’ destinies wrapped around our hands. Who I am is understanding that, being mindful of my words and actions, and trying to help others be mindful as well.”


Visit edemsoulmusic.com to learn more about Edem.

This article appears in the January/February 2018 edition of The Encounter.

Wakanda

April 30, 2018 by
Photography by Keith Binder

What’s really in a name? For some, a name is an arbitrary label. For musicians Shomari Huggins and Coleman Hunter, better known by their stage name Wakanda, it’s more than a simple way to identify themselves. It’s a mission statement.

“We want to empower our community to overcome the turmoil,” Huggins says. “It’s about who can we reach that really needs the help or the message.”

Huggins and Hunter met in the third grade at Springville Elementary School where their mutual affinity for music was evident. They joined forces for the third and fifth grade talent shows, covering the likes of Carlos Santana and Jagged Edge. Eventually, they came together again after a performance in 2015, when the two decided to officially join as a group under the moniker Wakanda.

“Wakanda really chose us,” Huggins says, looking back at the inception of the group and how its name was inspired by Native American culture. Often spelled “Wakonda,” the word translates to “Great Spirit” or “Creator” in indigenous Omaha, Ponca, and Osage languages. The sacred word is present in Lakota, too.

In light of the blockbuster film Black Panther, Wakanda has also become synonymous with the fictional African country of the Marvel comic book hero. “The obvious Black Panther connection was deep too because our precious resource that we are protecting is our vibrations, our music,” Huggins says, explaining the correlation between Wakanda, Africa, Black Panther, and Lakota spirituality.

“There’s a Great Spirit that’s in us that comes out when we create our music. Wakanda is a creative spirit,” Huggins says. “With the musical gifts we’ve been given we know we must say something that’s for our people and not against our people, so [we’re] selective about what we say with our platform.”

Given the importance of Native American culture for the Great Plains region, the duo (who do not claim tribal heritage) have chosen quite the name. Less than a year after officially becoming a group, Wakanda found themselves using their musical gifts on the front lines alongside the Lakota Sioux in a fight for human rights.

They stood with native tribes and thousands of other protesters against the Dakota Access pipeline. Accompanied by other local artists in 2016, Wakanda performed at the Love Movement music festival, which was organized as an artistic counter to the negativity, and sometimes violence, the protesters faced.

“We were able to connect ourselves deeper with the global civil rights movement and human rights movement,” saxophonist Hunter says. “Personally, everyone’s lives were changed. The trip made us more aware of the need for music that was able to reach people’s spirit and make them vibe but also make them think.”

For Wakanda, the Great Spirit of change and community upliftment doesn’t stop with their music. Since their transformational trip to Standing Rock, the duo has continued to create and inspire, staying true to their mission of empowerment. They are currently working on youth mentorship and college prep projects as well as planning an arts and agriculture festival for this fall.

“Whatever will bring our community together around positive energy is what we plan to be doing. We want to create as much as we can for our community, local and international,” Huggins says. “We want to inspire the youth. We want to help young artists find their passion and influence them to use their whole mind to create without fearing what others will think.”

The group was nominated for a 2018 Omaha Entertainment Award for Best R&B, no small feat considering they haven’t released an album yet. Although they did not win, they say the experience was a win for the local arts community as a whole.

“Whenever art [or] artists get a platform in our city we clap for it,” Hunter says. “We understand how tough it is sometimes to get people to respect many art forms, so we are glad the OEAAs provide the platform. Ultimately, we lost, but our category was full of great artists.”


To learn more about Wakanda’s music, visit facebook.com/wakandaone.

This article appears in the May/June 2018 edition of Encounter.

Virginia Kathryn

April 9, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Whether she’s talking about pedals or people, Virginia Kathryn Gallner’s enthusiasm for music is downright catching. 

As she sips her cup of tea, the conversation ranges from the spelling of her middle name (it’s Welsh, and her mom liked it) to Christmas presents. She tries to make her own gifts for friends and family, but “I never get them done in time,” she confesses.

The 21-year-old folk and blues musician grew up in Council Bluffs. She moved to Omaha when she started attending the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where she is double majoring in International Studies and Religious Studies and minoring in Ancient and Medieval Studies. She credits Council Bluffs for helping shape who she is and notes that it offers a small-town vibe without making her feel claustrophobic.

“I used to go to Lidgett’s Music every week just to hang out and learn about guitars, and explore the depths of Kanesville Kollectibles record store on the weekends.”

Gallner’s music career took root at the Council Bluffs Public Library while taking group lessons. After two classes, she was hooked. She started playing music on her parents’ upright piano in their dining room at a very young age, but once she picked up a guitar, the piano lost its allure.

“It’s funny, the first time I picked up a guitar, I immediately put it in my lap and tried to play it like a piano–which I do now, with lap steel guitar.” She says her mom bought her a cherry-red Stratocaster from Lidgett that she affectionately called “Hellboy.”

Gallner enjoys playing guitar in the Delta/Piedmont style, which sets her apart from most other local blues artists, who emulate the rowdier Texas style. However, she notes that a lot of the harmonies she uses aren’t found outside of folk music, and she’s also been known to sing jazz “torch” songs, which she explains is just a simple term for sentimental love songs.

All that practice and research has served her well, as she’s has been making an impact on the local music scene, even garnering a 2018 nomination for an Omaha Entertainment and Arts Award in the best blues musician category. 

During a recent show at The B Bar on Leavenworth, she performs several covers, including Tom Waits’ “Midnight Lullaby” and Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire,” among several older, more traditional tunes, including some Robert Johnson Delta blues.

Onstage, Gallner dresses in black with a few pops of color—including a shiny red rose on her short, black combat boots that match the flowers on her shirt.

While the house isn’t packed on this Thursday night, it’s clear that everyone is here to see her. Even the bartenders pay close attention as she starts playing, clapping enthusiastically as she finishes each song.

She plays several cover songs along with her own originals, including some from her upcoming album, which is yet to be named. Gallner has adopted “Virgina Kathryn” as the simplified stage name for musical work.

Her influences are evident by the songs she chooses to cover, but when asked who her biggest musical influence is, she gives a quick, straightforward response—Nick Drake.

“He was an incredible musician who passed away way too soon,” she says. In a testament to her admiration of the now well-known and widely-appreciated singer-songwriter, she has learned his entire catalog. “The harmonies, the choice of note placement, the timing…I’m finding it influences my arrangement styles as well.”

Gallner also finds a lot of creative energy to draw from right here in our local music scene.

“Kait Berreckman is such an inspiration to me as a songwriter. Her songs have such a unique style,” Gallner says. “She comes up with the most unexpected twists, they never go where you expect them to.”

“The Shineys have been really cool to work with…I’ve been on the same bill as them for a number of shows and seeing their interpretations of songs has been really inspiring,” she says. “It’s a more intricate art than a lot of people make it out to be.”

“Every translation is an interpretation, as we like to say in ancient history and translation,” she adds with a laugh. “The same applies to music…you’re making it your own.”

Gallner says there are many Omaha acts she admires, but she’s especially impressed by the women on the scene. She lists Becky Lowry, (who organizes Femmefest every year), Emily Cox, and X-Rated Women In Music (out of Lincoln) as just a few examples of women committed to growing the community.

Gallner also plays a role in this system, volunteering as an after-school instructor with Omaha Girls Rock, teaching women in American traditional music and musical experimentation. During the summer, she says she teaches guitar and acts as a band coach for the program.

“You see so many women supporting women, and that is really important to me,” she says.

Most importantly though, Gallner says playing music has given her opportunities to meet people with whom she might never have otherwise crossed paths.

“It has helped me give voice to a lot of stories that have lain dormant in my mind…in my imagination? Imagination, use that word,” she says with a laugh.

Gallner’s album release party will be at Reverb Lounge, on Thursday, June 14.

 

This article appears in the March/April 2018 edition of Encounter

Alicia Sancho Scherich

March 29, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Behind every good artist, there exists a muse. And for Alicia Sancho Scherich, her muse happens to be a former pen pal—Mother Teresa. Yes, that Mother Teresa, Nobel Peace Prize winner and humanitarian extraordinaire. 

The two connected only once, but the memory still brings tears to Sancho Scherich’s eyes as she recalls it nearly three decades later. After completing a large canvas painting of the icon, she wanted to make reproductions and wrote to ask Mother Teresa if she’d like all sales donated to her charity. Being the saint that she is, Mother Teresa wrote back, suggesting Sancho Scherich keep her goodwill within her local community instead. But Sancho Scherich had an even better, bigger, and bolder idea.

Using this first 4-by-6 foot canvas painting as the epicenter of something much more grandiose, Sancho Scherich began painting, researching, and painting some more. Twelve years later, 17 more linen canvases made stunning with strokes of oil paint, and her magnum opus was complete—a mural titled “World Peace” that went on display in Creighton’s Lied Art Gallery last year. 

“I wanted to create something that captured the nature of man, with each canvas depicting either a different positive or negative aspect,” Sancho Scherich says. “I consider this my greatest and most thought-provoking achievement.”

And that’s really saying something for an 84-year-old artist who’s been working for the better part of the last century. Throughout her illustrious career, Sancho Scherich’s style has transitioned from traditional realism to abstract expressionism, but all of her work stands out for its near perfection. Even with hundreds of paintings, murals, and prints under her belt, each piece manages to combine obsessive research with uncanny imagination to embody all the things that make humanity, well, human.

“Although my work may look different, I always try to get straight to the heart of the matter, whether it’s a portrait or a symbolic piece,” Sancho Scherich says. “And when something comes to my head, I just love working and working on it until it’s perfect.”

With her lineage, though, creative perfectionism runs through Sancho Scherich’s very DNA. Her grandfather was a violinist in the court orchestra of King Alfonso XIII of Spain, and her grandmother was an accomplished artist, as was her father. So much so that he received wide acclaim and was awarded bronze, silver, and gold medals from the Spanish National Exposition of Fine Arts (the equivalence of such an honor in the United States would be being named Artist Laureate by the
federal government).

While Sancho Scherich has called the sprawling suburbs of Bellevue, Nebraska, home since 1960, she still looks to lessons from her father in the sunny vistas of Madrid as the catalyst for her later accomplishments. In fact, with her father’s guidance, her artistic career began with handcrafting royal dolls as a teenager and working towards a degree in fashion design and toy making. By age 26, this Spanish señorita was United States-bound after falling for and marrying an American airman who was being transferred from a post in Spain to Offutt Air Force Base.

“There are many cultural differences in Spanish and American art,” Sancho Scherich says. “Here, the first thing many consider is how much money they can get out of a painting. In Europe, price is secondary, so the work is more authentic and passionate.” 

These Spanish values stay with Sancho Scherich today. Most of her paintings are given as gifts or adorn the walls of her home (adjacent to Fontenelle Forest). But even the most passionate of painters needs to make some pennies. From St. Joseph Hospital to College of St. Mary to the Woodmen of the World Society, she has been commissioned to paint portraits for present and past leadership in notable organizations. Additionally, she creates work for local philanthropies that are given to help raise funds at charity auctions. 

Like Spanish wine, things seem to only get sweeter with age for Sancho Scherich. In late 2017, she nabbed two nominations from the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards for her showing of “World Peace” at Creighton earlier in the year. And if she has any say, that’s just the beginning of this piece’s journey. She hopes to market it to be shown in galleries across the Midwest, the nation, and eventually the world, all with the end goal of it finally being installed in the United Nations General Assembly.

“Her passion for this project is simply unmatched,” says Steve Scherich, her son. “Even me, after years of looking at these canvases, I’ll find things I hadn’t ever seen before. This really needs to be shared with others.”

At barely 5 feet tall, this petite painter packs a big heart and doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. Even after suffering a stroke two years ago and losing her husband, she says nothing will stop her from hunting down that next big idea.

“Art is something inside you that you need to express always,” Sancho Scherich says. “I can’t stop doing this and go to the Riviera anytime soon. I just need to find something to inspire me to create again.”

Saint Cecilia Cathedral’s Sunderland Gallery is hosting an exhibition of Alicia Sancho Scherich’s father’s work, A Lifetime of Painting by Mariano Sancho, through April 1. Visit cathedralartsproject.org for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.