Tag Archives: OEAAs

Omaha Entertainment & Art Awards

June 24, 2019 by and

The Process

The Omaha Entertainment & Arts Awards celebrate the stars of Omaha’s artistic communities.

The awards are carefully cultivated and judged. The OEAA organization strives to recognize the wide variety of local visionaries in music, performing arts, and visual arts working to make Omaha’s arts community vibrant and worthwhile.

The process starts with the categories. The OEAA Board of Directors annually evaluates the award categories to take into account new genres or artistic mediums to better suit the current face of Omaha’s ever-changing art scene. Any changes to voting categories must be finalized prior to the voting period—18 months in advance of the awards.

Then come public nominations, in which the public can write-in their choices for the best in each category. Public nominations open Sept. 1 on the OEAA website, and close on Aug. 31 the following year. (The February 2020 event will present awards to those people for work done between Sept. 1, 2018, and Aug. 31, 2019.) Eligible nominees need to live within 100 miles of the Omaha metro area and have exhibited or performed their work in the same timeframe as nominations (Sept. 1, 2018, and Aug. 31, 2019, for the 2020 awards).

After online nominations have closed, the OEAA board of directors, with assistance from Jeremiah R. Woltemath at Dickinson & Clark CPAs, assembles voting ballots based on the total number of nominations. The ballots are then sent to the OEAA Academy—a group of more than 175 established artists, industry professionals, and cultural journalists separated by spheres of influence (i.e., music, performing arts, or visual arts).

Members of the OEAA Academy vote on the year’s awardees. Winners are announced at the OEAA red-carpet event held each winter.

Below, three leaders in their respective fields gave Omaha Magazine their opinions for who should be nominated in the three categories recognized by OEAAs.

Dereck Higgins’ Observations of 2019 Music Scene

Omaha musician Dereck Higgins says, “Omaha music continues to thrive and show diversity. The city has developed a vibrant music hub in Benson. Local artists are regularly hitting the road with tours and holding their own against acts from around the world. Omaha music is still growing.”

Higgins is a fixture in the Omaha music scene. In the 1980s, he played bass for two area punk bands—RAF and Digital Sex—but over the years recorded and played under a variety of genres. He is scheduled to be inducted into the Nebraska Music Association Hall of Fame in late June and has won multiple OEAA awards, including “Best Punk Band” in 2019 for his band RAF, “Best Progressive/Experimental/EDM in 2017 for his band Chemicals, andBest Progressive/Experimental/EDM” in 2016 for solo work. Higgins’ tenure in Omaha means he has seen many people come and go. Here are his thoughts as to who should be nominated for the 2020 OEAA music category:

Best Rock: Skuddur

Best Hard Rock: Saints of Lust

Best Alternative/Indie: Thick Paint

Best Metal: Stronghold

Best DJ: Kethro

Best Americana/Folk: Scott Severin

Best Country: Clarence Tilton

Best R&B: Wakanda

Best Soul: Mesonjixx

Best Hip Hop/Rap: Marcey Yates

Best Blues: Grover Lipkins

Best Jazz: Curly Martin

Best Pop: Glow In The Dark

Best Progressive Rock/Experimental/EDM: Plack Blague

Best Punk: R.A.F.

Best World Music: 3gypt

Best Cover Band: That 70’s Band

Local Album of the Year: The Faint, Egowerk

Best New Artist: 3gypt

Best Recording Studio: ARC (Another Recording Company)

Best Live Music Sound Engineer: Dan Brennan

Stephanie Kidd’s Thoughts on Local Theater

Omaha thespian Stephanie Kidd says, “This theater season in Omaha was an interesting one. With the loss of the permanent space for SNAP! and Shelterbelt, the community felt a loss in both opportunities for new works and in the type of cutting-edge stories those theaters provided. There is plenty of room in Omaha for new stories to be told and for more representation so that everyone can have a seat at the table.”

Kidd grew up in Overland Park, Kansas, and earned a bachelor’s degree in theater from Creighton University, then a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  She has worked at The Rose Theater as a teaching artist and appeared in several productions there.

She is currently a board member of the Theatre Arts Guild and Anastasis Theatre, and she works for the Great Plains Theatre Conference. Here are her nominations for the OEAAs in theater.

Best Director (Play): Amy Lane and Beth Thompson for The Flora and The Fauna, a #METOO Event

Best Director (Musical): Eric Salonis for Assassins at Brigit St. Brigit

Best Actor (Play): Jonathan Purcell for Indecent at Bluebarn Theatre

Best Actor (Musical): Dan Chevalier for Elf: The Musical at The Rose; David Ebke for Assassins at Brigit St. Brigit; Torisa Walker for Legally Blonde at Creighton University

Best Supporting Actor (Play): Catie Zaleski for The Flora and the Fauna

Best Supporting Actor (Musical): Jordan Smith for Shrek at Omaha Community Playhouse

Best Youth Performer: Chloe Irwin for She Kills Monsters at Omaha Community Playhouse

Best Dramatic Play: The Flora and the Fauna; Incident at Vichy at Brigit St. Brigit

Best Comedic Play: One Man, Two Guvnors at Omaha Community Playhouse

Best Premier of a New, Original, Local Script:  Blues of Knowing Why by Christopher Maly at The Union for Contemporary Art; EPIC by Ellen Struve part of GPTC; The Doll Maker’s Gift by EllaRose Chary and Fran Sillau at The Rose

Best Musical: Elf: The Musical at The Rose; Little Women the Musical at The Chanticleer Community Theater

Best Dance Production: tbd. dance collective’s mode of being and UNO’s Moving Company’s Spring Showcase

Best Performance Poet:  Greg Harries

Best Comedian: Stephanie Finklea and Angi Sada

Best Comedy Ensemble: Less Mis/Zip-Zopera at The Backline

Outstanding Lighting Design: Indecent at Bluebarn Theatre

Outstanding Prop Design: Amy Reiner for Indecent at Bluebarn Theatre

Outstanding Scenic Design: Adam Rowe for Elf: The Musical at The Rose

Outstanding Costume Design: She Kills Monsters at Omaha Community Playhouse

Outstanding Sound Design: She Kills Monsters at Omaha Community Playhouse

Outstanding Choreographer: Melanie Walters for Indecent at Bluebarn Theatre

Outstanding Music Direction: Jerry Brabec for Elf: The Musical at The Rose

Bart Vargas’ Views on the Visual Arts

Visual artist Bart Vargas says, “There is a place for everyone in Omaha’s visual arts scene, from high school students organizing their first shows to artificers managing international careers from our fair city. In fact, 2018-2019 was such an amazing year for the ever-expanding Omaha visual arts scene that I’m not sure where to even begin.”

Vargas grew up in Bellevue, served in the Air National Guard, and worked a string of odd jobs before enrolling in the University of Nebraska at Omaha to study art. He then earned a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota. Vargas works in painting, ceramics, and sculpture, and his art varies from skulls made of dismembered keyboards to giant pills composed of plastic bottles. He previously won OEAAs for “Best 3-D Artist” in 2019, “Best Visual Artist” in 2013, and “Best Emerging Artist” in 2007. Here are his ideas for the 2020 OEAAs.

Best Visual Artist: Angie Seykora

Best Emerging Visual Artist: Shawnequa Linder

Best 2-D Artist: Ella Weber

Best 3-D Artist: Sarah Kolar

Best New Media Artist: Reagan D Pufall

Best Group Show: Dementia Americana by Cannupa Hanska Luger, Marty Two Bulls Jr., and Micheal Two Bulls at the LUX Center for the Arts

Best Solo Show: Angie Seykora: Emergent Structures at APMA ARTS (Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture)

Best 2-Person Show: KATHY by Angie Seykora and Peter Fankhauser at Maple Street Construct

Best Public Art: “The Ancestor, The Identity, and The Seed,” mural by Reggie LeFlore II.

Best Presentation in a Non-Traditional Format: Loophole at Project Project by Rachel Buse.

*Editor’s Note: Writer Chris Bowling interviewed these industry experts regarding their suggestions for the OEAAs, which are nominated by the public and voted by the board. While these three artists were asked for their opinions because they are tuned-in to the Omaha arts scene, anyone in the area can nominate candidates for the OEAAs now through Aug. 31.

Lifetime Achievement Award in Visual Arts
Nominee Suggestions

In this essay, OEAA Board Member Tim Guthrie suggests his nominees for the annual “Lifetime Achievement” award, which is exclusively chosen by the board.

At a time when “30 under 30” and other awards celebrating youth are all the rage, I would like to tip my hat to some Omaha artists who have persevered.

These visual artists are all deserving of the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Omaha Entertainment & Arts Awards: Jun Kaneko, Mary Zicafoose, Therman Statom, Catherine Ferguson, Susan Knight, and Rob Gilmer.

The “Lifetime Achievement Award” rotates every three years across performing arts, music, and visual arts. Houston Alexander won the honor in 2019 for music. In my first year on the OEAA board, I am recommending this handful of nominees from Omaha’s visual arts community:

Jun Kaneko

Kaneko is the most famous on this list. Yes, I know, he dominates the local scene, but that shouldn’t disqualify him, right? If I were to list all of the museum collections, national and international exhibitions, set designs, public commissions, and awards, I wouldn’t have any room left to write about anyone else. When you add founder of the KANEKO and co-founder of Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, his biography would run for pages.

Mary Zicafoose

Zicafoose works as a tapestry weaver. You can see 12 of her long panels in a recent commissioned work at the Buffet Cancer Center. She received a 2015 Women’s Center for Advancement Tribute to Women Award. Her work is in public and private collections around the globe (including the “Art in Embassies” program on three continents). She’s been included in the highly juried Smithsonian Craft Show and similar shows. She’s moved a lot and exhibited internationally; lucky for us, she eventually landed in Omaha. She’s received Nebraska Arts Council (NAC) Individual Artist Fellowships three times, a Bemis residency, Craft Forms’ “Best of Show,” and was included in the 13th International Triennial of Tapestry in Lodz, Poland.

Therman Statom

Statom’s work is unique and identifiable. His awards include “Outstanding Achievement” from UrbanGlass, “Distinguished Artist” from the James Renwick Alliance, and multiple grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Artists Fellowship. He studied at the Pilchuck Glass School, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the Pratt Institute School of Art. His work is in public and private collections around the globe.

Catherine Ferguson

Ferguson has also exhibited extensively, including a Joslyn installation in 1992 and another at the Sheldon Art Museum, where her “Arietta II” is in the permanent collection. She won a Leonard Theisen Governor’s Arts Award, and was selected to participate in the Bemis’s Artist-in-Industry Steel Collaboration Project. She also spent a half dozen years on the board of the NAC, and a decade on the board of the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. The Women’s Center for Advancement commissioned her work for its clinic room. She’s been in many Artist In The Schools programs for the NAC.

Susan Knight

Knight was featured in Fine Arts Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, and Sculpture magazine. She’s received a NAC Individual Fellowship and exhibited at the Sheldon Art Museum, Museum of Nebraska Arts, and multiple international exhibitions (including China). Upcoming projects include Eureka Springs School of Art in Arkansas, and a 2020 solo show at the Evanston Art Center in Illinois. She was at the International School of Art Residency in Monte Castello di Vibio, Italy; the AS IF Center Residency in High Cove, North Carolina; and has completed several Ragdale Foundation Residency Fellowships.

Rob Gilmer

My last choice might seem a bit out of left field, because he is the youngest name listed, and has more often worn a curator hat. However, when it comes to lifetime achievement and impact in the local arts scene—not to mention OEAA’s desire to recognize people before they leave us (in this case, before they leave Omaha, as Gilmer is leaving the Midwest for the East Coast), I think this dark horse needs a huge shoutout. Gilmer’s RNG Gallery opened on Leavenworth 2007, then moved to Council Bluffs in 2011. The gallery exhibited one show a month for about a decade. He created the exhibit This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven to honor his late spouse René Orduña, and Gilmer curated other memorable exhibitions over the years (including Dream House on Rye at the Bemis Underground in 2006). Wanda Ewing’s final show was at RNG. In fact, she passed away the day after the closing reception.

The aforementioned accomplished artists are titans of Omaha’s visual arts scene. But there are many others in the community who have dedicated their lives to their artistry. We should celebrate them all.

—an essay by Tim Guthrie

This is a web-only article and the suggestions and opinions expressed here are not necessarily the views of Omaha Magazine

To learn more about the OEAAs, click here for a related article originally published in the July/August issue of Omaha Magazine

Creating a City-wide Celebration

June 13, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Los Angeles has its Oscars, New York City its Tonys, and Omaha the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards.

And though Louis B. Mayer created the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (and thus the Oscars) in order to stave off unionification, one man in Omaha is largely responsible for creating the OEAAs as a method of unifying artists in Omaha.

John Heaston, publisher of The Reader, was brought an idea in 2006 to hold an awards ceremony in which Omaha artists would be honored for their work throughout the year. The Reader was asked to be the organizer of the event, but the committee decided to make it more community-based, so they decided to set up the organization as a 501c3. Heaston threw his publication’s hat in the ring by promoting it in the magazine, and he threw himself into helping create the best awards ceremony he could.

“The OEAAs would not exist without him,” says Emily Cox, the show’s current producer and a past board member.  

Heaston has been instrumental in bringing together some of Omaha’s most notable artists to be part of the event. In the first show, the organization honored musician Luigi Waites with the lifetime achievement award.

“We were trying to tell him we wanted him to be a presenter, when we were actually trying to give him an award,” Heaston recalls. “He thought he was going to go visit family, but then we contacted his family and got them to come here so we could get him to the awards ceremony.”

“John has a knack for attracting talent and giving [people] a platform—which is what the OEAAs are all about,” says Brent Crampton, who won Best DJ/Electronic the first year. “So in a way, the reflex to start the OEAAs was just an extension of who John is: a passionate connector that wants to mobilize talented people in his community.”

In the beginning, the awards show was simply that—an awards show. The honors were presented using a PowerPoint presentation to announce the categories and artists. As the event has grown, it has become a series of events for the entire arts community, incorporating art shows, music showcases, and workshops to teach artists about marketing and other points about the business of creating art.

Growing pains were inevitable, but Heaston always believed in the community, and the event.

“John [knew] there were plenty of times when this could have fizzled out,” Cox says. “He says, ‘Let’s think about this.’ When people push back and present problems, he says, ‘Well, let’s fix it.’”

John_Heaston on rooftop, downtown Omaha

Cox recalls the year the event changed presentation formats, saying it was Heaston’s ability to collaborate that made the change happen.

“It was when we decided we were going to change from a PowerPoint to creating the videos where we show footage of an art show or a concert,” Cox says. “It was going to be a huge task of getting the data, then we decided to get small interviews, asking people, ‘What do the OEAAs mean to you?’ John was the one who stepped in and said, ‘I’ll get people to help.’”

And he does, because for Heaston, this event is a pure labor of love.

“I think the lifetime achievements are especially moving,” Heaston says. “I think for artists to be recognized by other artists means a lot to them.”

He remembers musician Conor Oberst coming up to accept awards and saying that if there weren’t people in Omaha to buy cassette tapes when he was a kid, he might not be where he is today. He recalls promoter Matt Markel winning his lifetime achievement award after suffering a stroke and being humbled and honored by the acknowledgment.

Though Heaston is the constant in this event, he recognizes that it is not all about him.

“There’s been an incredible group of unsung heroes that have volunteered countless hours,” Heaston says. “It’s an extremely thankless job. Invariably there’s someone who doesn’t like the nominees or the honorees and has a different opinion.”

Still, it’s worth it for him, and the artistic community he fosters, when he sees the best of Omaha art come together early each year.

“What I loved about them the most was that it was the only time of year that all these artists and musicians got together under one roof,” Crampton says. “To pull so many creatives together in one space is a pretty incredible feat, and [it] gave us a sense of solidarity. What other event does that?” 

“There’s no other time when you have all these artists across the three major disciplines together,” Heaston says.

And the artists certainly think this event is worth the energy it takes to put together.

“The best part is the joy and happiness afterwards,” Cox says. “I think it’s useful to all of the local musicians. It’s on a lot of their one-sheets*.”

Heaston has steered the OEAAs for many years, taking strides to make sure the OEAAs will be a part of this community.

“He wants to see so much of Omaha thrive,” Cox says. “He’ll do anything to keep this going.”

*A one-sheet is a single page overview of a band and/or music used by PR agents, distributors, and other industry professionals to determine how sellable your band is to any given audience.

John Heaston, OEAAs

Nominate an Artist

by Doug Meigs

Did you see a phenomenal theatrical production within the past year? What’s the best new album by a local band? Which gallery hosted Omaha’s best art exhibit?

Now is your chance to call out the best of Omaha’s artistic communities with the Omaha Entertainment & Arts Awards.

Public nominations for the 2020 OEAA awards show are open now through Aug. 31.

The preliminary nominations will be voted on by the OEAA Academy. Awards for work (produced or exhibited between Sept. 1, 2018, and Aug. 31, 2019) will be announced at the 14th OEAA ceremony in February 2020.

Visit oea-awards.org to vote, and visit omahamagazine.com to read past winners’ opinions about potential nominees.

Doug Meigs is president of the OEAA board of directors and former executive editor of Omaha Magazine, an OEAA sponsor.

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


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.


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.