Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2014 Extravaganza: An afternoon of fanciful flight

On Sunday, January 12, LMTA presented the 2014 Extravaganza. Hosted every three years, the Extravaganza is, according to the Extravaganza's co-chair, Charlotte Heermann, “a special opportunity for students to play in an ensemble.” Marcia Wiebers, who also co-chaired the 2014 Extravaganza, remarked that: “The program was a feast for the eyes with the colorful t-shirts, the wildlife power point photos displayed, the close up shots of the performers on the big screen as Mid America Video Images recorded the event, the balloons, the keyboards, the strings. It was a treat for the ears with the narration and the music. It was heartwarming to observe the teachers helping and encouraging the students as they rehearsed and performed. There was a lot of excitement in the air and big smiles as the students came off the stage from their performance.”
Pianists performing at the 2014 Extravaganza
Photo courtesy of LMTA

Fourteen digital keyboards, provided by Dietze Music House, filled the stage. Under the baton of Del Whitman, string and music instructor at Lincoln East High School and Lux Middle School, the musicians performed. There were 32 LMTA teachers involved and approximately 200 students who registered. “Each teacher helped in some way, shape or form before, at the rehearsal or at the performance,” Wiebers added, “it goes without saying that the teachers of the performing students were invaluable in preparing their students.” It is not possible in this review to thank all of the LMTA members by name who contributed through their committee service and hours spent organizing and preparing for this event—but without each of them, this Extravaganza would not have had the same success.

Without the sponsors, Keith Heckman and Dietze Music House providing the pianos, Nebraska Wesleyan University allowing the use of their facilities, and LMTA members serving on committees, the Extravaganza could not have taken place. A huge thank-you goes out to them. Wiebers added a thank-you to other vital non-members who made this Extravaganza a success including “Del Whitman, the conductor, radio personality Joe Skare who narrated, photographers Steve Zechmann and Joe Wicks, videographer Kyle Wullschleger, members of the Crane Trust, Larry Jones of Nebraska Wesleyan, and Amy Flamminio who assisted with the writing of the narration.”

Violins, guitars, and cello take the stage.
Photo courtesy of LMTA
In every way, this event was the fruit of collaboration. Teachers working with other teachers, teachers and students, student to student, pianists, string players, and different types of media—music, photography, video, etc. The narration helped people know what to listen for in the music. Wiebers shared that: “My husband commented that a young child blurted out, after hearing the Ghost Dance, 'that wasn't so scary.' Many people enjoyed a good chuckle from that, so you know that the little ones were listening to both the narration as well as the music.”

One thing that is particularly memorable about this year's Extravaganza is the story about the commissioned piece, The Great Winged Migration. Nancy Schoen and Debra Heald procured the commission, and Schoen related the story of composer, Carol Klose: “She was excited to do the work. After researching Nebraska, Carol was inspired by the annual spring migration of the Sandhill cranes. Carol knew she was fighting cancer, but she was moved to compose this duet. After she was in hospice care, she expressed deep regret at being unable to complete the piece. After her death last February, anonymous composers collaborated to use the musical ideas Carol had already written.”

The beautiful piece that Carol Klose was inspired to write was performed at the close of the Extravaganza and dedicated to her memory. Thanks to her inspiration and focusing in on the Sandhill cranes, Klose set into motion the selection of the theme for the Extravaganza, “Taking Flight.” This led to the artwork by Zhanna Semm used as the logo on t-shirts, programs, and posters, wildlife photography (courtesy of Steve Zechmann and Joe Wicks) used during all the groups' performances and the Sandhill Crane video (thanks to Kyle Wullschleger and the Crane Trust) played during the premiere of the commissioned piece.

The Great Winged Migration was a wonderful way to close the 2014 Extravaganza—an afternoon of learning and listening.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

LMTA presents "Taking Flight" - the 2014 Extravaganza

On Sunday, Jan. 12, LMTA will present the 2014 Extravaganza. The event will be held at the O'Donnell Auditorium on the Nebraska Wesleyan campus at 3:00pm on Sunday. Tickets may be purchased at the door for $5 for adult and $3 for ages 16 and under.

What is an Extravaganza?

According to Charlotte Heermann who is co-chairing this year's Extravaganza, "This is a special opportunity for students to play in an ensemble if they haven't done so previously: follow a conductor and listen to others playing to be sure they are together. These things help form their understanding and musicianship, but perhaps just as important, they have a chance to have fun with music and make new friends."

The 2011 Extravaganza - see all the pianos on stage?!
Photo courtesy of Jo Karl

15 digital keyboards, provided by Dietze Music House, will be on stage. 30 pianists will take the stage at a time -- two per piano -- and play a duet under the baton of Del Whitman. Thirteen groups at varying levels will play duets and a brief narration will be read between each group by Joe Skare of B107.3. The narration, written by this LincolnCMN writer, will give insight into the musical ideas to listen for in each piece. Photographs of wildlife will be projected on a screen during each piece. These photographs are courtesy of Steve Zechmann and Joe Wicks.

As you can imagine from the above description, a lot of work has gone into brining this event together. Heermann shared some insight into the process:

"Some of the tasks required to put this event together include securing a venue, a performance date, keyboards, a conductor, a narrator, selection of music, chairmen and committees to work on specific aspects of the production.
We are deeply indebted to Nebraska Wesleyan University for hosting us on January 12, and Keith Heckman of Dietze Music House for providing the Clavinova keyboards for the performance. At least 17 committees have or are working on various aspects of the Extravaganza, and we have been working on this since August 2012."

This is LMTA's tenth Extravaganza, besides the pianos on stage, several groups of violins and other strings will take the stage to perform together as well. Since 1983, LMTA has been providing this experience of ensemble playing for young musicians.

Besides the committees and sponsors, the teachers, parents, and students have also put in a great deal of time and effort--and Sunday will be a wonderful time to enjoy the fruits of their labors as the young musicians "take flight" and the audience listens...

...for bees, balloons, and butterflies, kites and clouds, phantoms, and fire-breathing dragons!

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