Surrounded by the sounds of afternoon jazz, Eden Corbitt leans back against a park bench and offers some wisdom.
“Your music really can take you as far as you want to go,” she says. “If you’re persistent, it will come.”
These words come from experience. Corbitt started playing music at age 10. As a child, she was constantly making rhythms and beating pencils against her desk. (“Every drummer knows the sound of their favorite pencil,” she later says.)
A dare from her mom spurred her to jump on the drum set during a church service—and that’s where it all began.
With both parents being ministers, Corbitt listened to a lot of gospel music growing up. In junior high, she expanded to alternative rock, and eventually, rhythm and blues, and hip-hop. She has played in as many as six bands at one time, but now she focuses on R&B.
As the first media chairperson for the Omaha NAACP, under the leadership of President Vickie Young, Corbitt acts as a bridge between the organization and the public. She aims to present a different narrative of what black culture looks like in the city.
Omaha NAACP hosts their monthly meetings in Love’s Jazz and Art Center at 2510 N. 24th St. The building was named for jazz saxophonist and bandleader Preston Love Sr., who was born in Omaha in 1921.
“Black culture, especially music, is not well represented here [in Omaha],” Corbitt says. She implores the public to visit Love’s Jazz & Art Center. “If you want to know about history and culture, especially in the black community, visit 24th and Lake streets.”
When asked what kinds of challenges she has faced as a femme musician—especially as a drummer—Corbitt laughs.
“Let’s open that can, shall we?” she says.
She started seeing the negativity when she decided to pursue music as a profession. Sexism and racism, subtle at first, have affected her bands. “They’ll pay more for an all-male band than for femme-led groups. We’re not going to accept anything less than what we deserve. We’ve set our own tone, and the right people started recognizing that. [It’s about] being respected as a musician and as a woman.”
Fortunately, she is able to help others demand that respect at an early age. Her involvement with Omaha Girls Rock allows her to intertwine a passion for multicultural education with her love of music. Corbitt started as a volunteer with OGR in summer 2018, and was honored as “Volunteer of the Year” at their annual fundraiser that same year. She has since become the program assistant.
“Eden brought such a dedicated, talented, and empowering spirit to OGR camp,” says Kat Ludwick, program director for Omaha Girls Rock. “[She] embodies so much of what we value in the organization.”
OGR partnered with Love’s Jazz in a program called Girls Make Noise, an educational workshop introducing OGR to the North Omaha community. “Bridges like that come naturally once you see and understand the beauty of the neighborhood,” says Corbitt.
Coming from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Corbitt appreciates the diversity and growth in Omaha music, especially for the next generation.
“My godmother used to tell me, if you’re not growing, you’re dying. Every day should be a learning experience.”
Currently, Corbitt is playing with Enjoli & Timeless and Dominique Morgan & The Experience. Enjoli & Timeless will be hosting their annual Black Friday show at Love’s this winter, which will also mark the release of a new album.
In 2020, Corbitt sees great things in store for music and the community. She hopes to establish an organization to facilitate drum lessons for young girls.
“When I don’t have a voice, my drums speak for me. Young girls deserve to have a voice. I love being able to help foster that.”
This article was printed in the October 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.