Tag Archives: UNO School of Music

Finding Hope in the New Year

January 3, 2019 by

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Thursday, Jan. 3: Start your new year on the right foot at the Omaha Magazine Launch Party for our January/February “Health” edition. The party is free, but please RSVP here. Free appetizers and adult beverages are compliments of Sol’s Jewelry and Loan. The new issue’s big story looks at organ donation and its effects on both the recipient and the donor/donor’s family. Houston Alexander of the Houston Alexander Foundation (who donated a kidney to his daughter) and Dr. Alan Langnas, the director of the Center of Transplantation at will share some words on organ donation. Continuing the health theme, there will be a performance by flautists with The Nebraska Medical Orchestra (a collaboration between UNMC and UNO School of Music). There will also be special opportunity to meet community influencers featured within 60Plus in Omaha Magazine’s “Prime Time” story, highlighting the fashion and wisdom of local seniors. To RSVP, please click here.

Friday, Jan. 4: The Transcendence Opening Reception kicks off the first exhibition of 2019 for The Little Gallery Benson. An invitation to delve into unsung stories more commonly shared behind closed doors, these works provide a glimpse through the cracks at these private stories. The exhibition was curated by Marie-Elena Schembri and will feature several of her pieces. Mark Andrew, Brandi Bentley, Mary Daley, Mary Ensz, Bekah Jerde, John David Munoz, and Nadia Shinkunas will also be exhibiting pieces. To learn more, please go here. Read about one of the artists showing by clicking here.

Saturday, Jan. 5: The new year doesn’t have to mean a new you—but it can mean an improved you. Help make those resolutions a reality by attending Setting Your Intentions 2019: A Vision Board Experience at the AIM Institute. Materials for your vision board will be provided, but feel free to bring any personal items or specific images you would like to use with you. Light refreshments and drinks are included in the cost. To purchase tickets, head here.

Saturday, Jan. 5: Afraid you missed out on all the New Year’s Eve fun this last weekend because you just couldn’t justify leaving the house in that cold? You’re in luck. You can still catch some NYE glitz this weekend by attending the rescheduled Downtown Omaha fireworks show at Gene Leahy Mall. The wind was just too much last week, but this week promises to bring better weather. Find out more here.

Sunday, Jan. 6: Did you know there’s a snow sculpting competition coming up in February? Well, you do now! And if you would like to participate, get over to the Snow Sculpture Workshops at Main Street Studios and Gallery in Elkhorn. They are offering these free workshops every Sunday in January. Learn more about the workshops here and more about the First Annual Nebraska Snow Sculpting Competition here.

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.