Tag Archives: OEAAs

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.

Eliminating The Impossible

March 28, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Zhomontee Watson first took the stage when she was a sophomore in high school. Completely new to the world of acting, her first director chose her to play the lead in The Princess and the Pea. As a college senior, Watson found herself nominated for Best Actress in a musical in the 12th annual Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards.

Watson netted the nomination (and a win)* in this year’s OEAAs with her performance as the lead character in Sister Act at Omaha Community Playhouse. She says she’s grateful, but it did catch her off guard. Her portrayal of Deloris Van Cartier was in September 2016—just before the cut-off date for OEAA qualifications.

“I did not expect this. Since it was over a year ago, I didn’t expect it to be part of the awards,” Watson says.

Sister Act, the musical comedy based on the 1992 film by the same name, follows Deloris Van Cartier on her journey into the Witness Protection Program after she sees a murder that she shouldn’t have. For her own safety, Deloris is sent to live in a holy convent. She struggles as she learns to adapt to her new life among the nuns.

“In this role I really had to connect to the words. There was no way you could sing those songs without connecting something to it,” Watson says.

Watson notes that most of her previous roles have been characters in established positions of power—such as a principal or mother figure—but Deloris Van Cartier was a different challenge for Watson to tackle. Completely removed from the security of her old life, Deloris must put her trust and safety into other people’s hands.

“I also got to have a sensitive and tender moment in the show where I had to connect with people who I love and who love me,” Watson says.

Sister Act displays a family-like bond between the nuns and Deloris, and Watson says that bond didn’t end when the curtain dropped. She says that her real-life connection to her fellow cast members helped bring her performance to life.

Director Kimberly Faith Hickman remembers Watson for her strong stage presence and work ethic. “She takes on the challenge and always accomplishes what you asked her to do, no matter how difficult it may be,” Hickman says. “You should never miss out on an opportunity to collaborate with Zhomontee.”

Acting has always been a passion for Watson. She doesn’t get compensated for her hours of devotion to the theater, but she does find acting to be an important outlet in her life.

“Acting definitely gave me a home away from home,” Watson says.

As someone who experienced some instability while growing up, acting was a way for Watson to find a support system and consistent group of people. Additionally, she’s found that acting puts her mind at ease.

“I can be myself with not being myself,” Watson says. “I get to dive into another character and leave my life at the door.”

In March, Watson is appearing in the Omaha Community Playhouse’s production of James and the Giant Peach. Like Sister Act, it is a musical directed by Hickman.

Watson plays the Earthworm in this beloved children’s story. Despite the role originally being intended for a man, she has taken on the challenge of portraying the character.

“She’s a risk-taker. I don’t know if she describes herself that way, but as someone who directs her I see her as a risk-taker,” Hickman says. “She asked if she could sing a part that wasn’t written for her gender and she was fantastic.”

Even through all her positive experiences in Omaha’s theater community, Watson does believe there’s room for improvement. Now, more than ever, she believes that conversations about inclusivity and diversity should be taking place.

While the OEAAs are taking steps to be more inclusive—such as changing their awards to be gender inclusive—there are other organizations that are failing to hit the mark.

“In our theater community now, it’s very important to know that inclusion is a thing and that it needs to remain a thing. It needs to become more a part of the narrative than it currently is,” Watson says.

She hopes that more theaters become proactive in finding diversity for their performances. There’s plenty of talent in Omaha’s minority communities, but theaters must create an inviting space. Watson says that they can’t just expect their theaters to develop a perfect cast—they have to actively seek and promote.

Additionally, she encourages those in the community to be accepting and understanding of newcomers. She believes that theaters can get stuck in a “comfort zone” that includes only casting a handful of frequent actors and actresses. By taking time to teach new thespians, Watson believes that Omaha’s already-impressive theater community can soar to new heights.

Her educational goals don’t stop with the stage. Her final year of undergraduate studies has taken up plenty of Watson’s free time, but she’s still managing to put the hours in for rehearsal and performance. Her current plan is to graduate in May and apply for UNO’s graduate counseling program.

“Grad school is a whole different ball game, so I’ll see how time management factors in, but I definitely don’t plan on stopping,” Watson says. “If I can squeeze in a show or two then I will.”

*Article updated after the OEAA winner announcements. 

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

Triple Threat Plus One

December 28, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

As I sit on the patio of Roast Coffeehouse in Aksarben Village watching people go by while waiting to meet the Clark triplets, it hits me that even though I’ve seen them play in bars over the years, they can’t actually drink in one yet. The talented siblings are only 20 years old, but they’ve been playing together as Clark & Company for years. It’s hard to believe they aren’t 21 yet.

All three are students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and live in the dorms, so we are meeting close to campus. Sophie arrives first, dressed like a typical college student in jean shorts and a yellow T-shirt. She apologizes for being late (though it’s only by a few minutes), and asks if it’s OK to go grab something to drink. She returns with brother Simon in tow.

As we start talking, Sophie and Simon speak over each other, occassionally interrupting and often finishing each other’s sentences throughout our conversation. I tell them I reached out to Cooper but hadn’t heard back from him. (From this point on, Imaginary Cooper will stand in for the third triplet.)

“That’s pretty Cooper,” Sophie says about her absent brother. “He wouldn’t say much if he was here anyway.”

(Imaginary Cooper looks puzzled for a second, then nods his head in agreement.)

This silence may be a way of standing out from his two siblings, as Sophie and Simon are both enthusiastic speakers.

While Clark & Company—the band—has been around for about five years, the siblings played music together long before that. Since they were around 8, in fact. They started out taking piano lessons in the same room with one instructor and several pianos.

“We were all really bad at it and the teacher did not like us,” Sophie says.

“She hated me,” Simon adds.

(Imaginary Cooper remains silent, perhaps pondering where they would be without those piano lessons.)

While none of them started out as savants when it came to the piano, Sophie says she was the best of the not-so-stellar bunch and continued practicing on an upright piano their parents bought.

Simon moved on to percussion in elementary school and Cooper started out on trumpet, later switching to guitar, then to bass. (Imaginary Cooper does a quick air guitar when this is mentioned.)

Over the years, the brothers joined the jazz and marching bands, and all three siblings were in show choir. However, their experiences with the School of Rock is what really got them into playing together as a group.

They joined while they were in middle school, between eighth grade and freshman year. Simon says it’s where they gained experience playing shows together as a band, and Sophie adds it’s also where she learned to write songs. (Imaginary Cooper opens his mouth as if to add something, but ultimately decides to remain silent.)

Current fans wouldn’t recognize the music they started out playing. Their first group was a hard rock cover band, formed with fellow musician Gage Clark. “No relation,” Sophie says.

“We had a few original songs,” Simon points out.

“We started out writing rock songs that were like, kind of terrible,” Sophie says.

“No, they were fine,” Simon quickly interrupts, though both admit to laughing whenever they go back and listen to those songs. “I cringe,” Sophie says.

Simon says they started playing shows around town and getting involved in the music scene. This is when Sophie decided she wanted to write songs in a more acoustic, singer/songwriter style. Eventually, they started Clark & Company — which has been described as indie, jazz, blues, and R&B/soul music — in their sophomore year of high school.

That brings us to the fourth, non-related member of the band. Longtime collaborator and sometimes mediator Cameron Thelander is a tenor saxophonist and occasional guitarist. He says he has known the Clarks for nearly 15 years, though he didn’t get to know them well until he joined the group.

Despite their youth, Thelander mentions that the band started out playing in bars around town.

“It was kind of fun,” he says with a laugh. “It was cool.”

Playing in a band with three siblings can be a unique experience, especially when they’re triplets. Thelander says he thinks his role as the fourth member of the group is to keep
them grounded.

“Since they are triplets, they can go off on tangents where they’re disagreeing with each other or arguing, so I think it really helps having me there,” he says. “It gives them an outside opinion that is less biased, I guess.”

He adds that they can all be stubborn. “Well, maybe not Cooper. Cooper just kind of hangs out and does what he wants. He doesn’t really talk much.” (I am interviewing Thelander over the phone so Imaginary Cooper cannot deny or corroborate this information.)

Despite the stubbornness, Thelander says, “All of the Clarks are literally the most kind, genuine people I’ve known. They’re like my second family.”

Which makes sense since the group is essentially a family affair, with their mother, Melanie Clark, acting as their manager or “momager,” as Thelander affectionately refers to her.

“She’s really good about it,” he says. “She’s super understanding and usually tries to communicate with us before she books something.”

Simon and Sophie agree their parents have done a lot to help them in their musical ventures. Melanie has been their manager from the start, and their father, Fred, gave up his art space so they could have an in-home studio.

While Thelander has been a consistent figure in the group, their lineup does change, often adding more horns and stringed instruments to the mix.

The band has been nominated for several Omaha Entertainment and Arts awards over the years—including this year—with their music often being placed in different categories. Clearly, putting a label on what they do can be difficult. For Sophie, the feel behind the music is essentially singer/songwriter. “iTunes calls it indie R&B,” Simon says, “which is close.”

Simon says: “The cool thing about Clark & Company is, us being the Clarks, the company can be any other musician we bring in.” This could account for that hard-to-categorize quality.

While both Simon and Sophie say they are interested in performing outside the group, that doesn’t mean they would stop playing together. (Imaginary Cooper is unsurprisingly quiet on this subject.)

Sophie says, “I think that Cooper, Simon, and I will always play together, because it’s convenient that it’s in the family and we know how to work with each other,” she says. “Any project we do, we’ll all pitch in.”

Visit clarkcoband.com to hear their music and find their shows. 

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

SImon, Cooper, and Sophie Clark, and Cameron Thelander