All Ages Subjects

Cowboy Poetry and Nighthawk Tunes

by Michael F. McDonald

What do the Mexican-American War, Irish music and the American cowboy have in common? McDonald answers that question with an introduction to early nighthawk tunes, which were initially a tool of the working cowboy to keep the herded cattle settled down at night. McDonald shares tunes from Thomas Moore’s “Irish Melodies” poetry and those of Stephen Foster and George F. Root. The program concludes with cowboy poetry set to McDonald’s original western-style music, and can be customized for the group from the work of several cowboy poets.

Up the Nebraska Cattle Trail and Songs of the West

by Joan Wells

When the Union Pacific built the railroad across Nebraska in 1867 cattle ranching was almost unknown in the state.  With a surplus of cattle in Texas, cattle drives brought hundreds of thousands of cattle to Nebraska by way of the Great Western Trail from San Antonio to Ogallala, where they were shipped to markets in eastern cities.  The cowboys on these four-month-long cattle drives would pass the time singing songs about life on the trail.  They’d calm the cattle at night with songs traced back to European folk songs.  Wells and Simon sing and tell the story of the origin of western music.

All Original, All Nebraska

by Dan Holtz

Holtz celebrates and commemorates people, places, and events in Nebraska history through original songs (accompanied by guitar and harmonica) and the stories and background behind them. The songs’ subjects range from a general celebration of Nebraska (“We’re Nebraska”); to a retrospective on the Sandhills; to a tribute to Susan LaFlesche Picotte, the first Native American woman to become a medical doctor; to a salute to Husker football; to a tribute to the migration of the Sandhill Cranes; and more.

Nebraska’s Outlaw Trail, Highway 12

by Marci Broyhill

Cowboy poetry, story, humor and a power point presentation, provide information regarding Nebraska’s colorful characters: Doc Middleton, Kid Wade, Jesse James and vigilantes. It also highlights the positive character and influence of ranchers, Ruth and Cal Thompson, owners of the White Horse Ranch. Travel the Outlaw Trail where universal forces of good and evil; past and present often intersect

Train Songs and Tales

by David Seay

What is it about trains that so easily engages one’s imagination? Climb aboard with David as he shares a variety of railroad inspired songs and stories that offer peeks into the past from a wide variety of points of view. This upbeat excursion is accompanied by guitar, banjo, harmonica, whistles, and a sing-along or two.

Dunne "Dooing" It

by Robert Dunne

Dunne provides a look at traditional Aboriginal culture using such musical instruments as the didgeridoo (an ancient Australian wind instrument made from a tree branch hollowed out by termites), clapsticks and bullroar.

Didgeridoo and Dulcimer, Too

by Phyllis Dunne by Robert Dunne

The Dunnes present the unique sounds of the Appalachian Mountain dulcimer and the Australian Aboriginal didgeridoo. The program invites audience participation as the Dunnes describe the representative cultures. The dulcimer and the didgeridoo are known for their characteristic mesmerizing drones. Phyllis focuses on the history behind American folk songs, while Bob shares the legacy of Australian Aboriginal folk tales and traditions.

Promise in a New Land: Migrating and Settling in Nebraska

by Cherrie Beam-Callaway

Beam-Clarke, as Mariah Monahan, with Irish brogue and period costume, depicts a Nebraska settler between 1845 and 1870. Based on historical fact, this is a first-person Chautauqua-style presentation. Through a spellbinding rendition, viewers are transported in time to sail the ocean, ride the wagon trail, feel the loneliness and fight prairie fires. Laugh and cry with stories of successful crops, dancing, hard work, grasshoppers, losing loved ones and becoming an American. The program has two sequels entitled “The Courage to Continue” and “Grit n Gumption.” Educational and entertaining. This program is appropriate for all ages.

The Courage to Continue: Changing Homesteads in Nebraska

by Cherrie Beam-Callaway

This is a sequel to the program “Promise in a New Land.” Beam-Clarke, in period attire with Irish brogue, depicts Nebraska life on the prairie, 1870 to 1885. Based on historical fact, she continues her story in a dramatic Chautauqua-style presentation. Selling the homestead, they begin again as cattlemen in the desolate Sandhills. Relive trials of building the sod house, lightning storms, crying for rain, rattlesnakes and the never-ending wind. Delight with the 4th of July, Christmas and American pride. The program has a sequel entitled “Grit n Gumption.” This program is appropriate for all ages.

Grit ‘n’ Gumption

by Cherrie Beam-Callaway

This program is a continuation of stories told in “Promise in a New Land” and “The Courage to Continue.” Reprising her role as Mariah Monahan, in period attire with Irish brogue, Beam-Clarke tells more captivating stories depicting Nebraska life from 1860 to 1895. Hear about children becoming lost in the prairie, dealing with injuries, lack of women in the country, living on cornmeal, need for music and the endless monotonous labor. Learn how they dealt with schooling, childbirth, tornadoes and Indians. Educational and entertaining. This program is appropriate for all ages.

Legends and Leaders of the West

by Lyn Messersmith by Deb Carpenter-Nolting

Learn about leaders and legends who shaped the American West. Sacagawea, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, Sitting Bull, Annie Oakley, Doc Middleton and others are the focus of this program of original songs, stories and poems. Student activities based on the program are available on request.

Music of the Plains

by David Marsh

Pioneers who settled the Plains traveled from far and wide, yet endured many similar joys and hardships.  David’s goals with this program are twofold: 1) to demonstrate the various cultures represented by these courageous folks and 2) to share stories and sing songs that arose out of their common experience of early life here.  Though music, audiences learn about homesteading, cowboys, children’s games and the wonders of the wide open prairie.

Music of the Civil War

by David Marsh

Multi-instrumentalist Marsh brings the Civil War to life with songs and stories. Children and adults alike will enjoy, learn, and sing along to songs from both sides of this epic American conflict and hear the origins of patriotic songs like “Dear Old Dixie” and .the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Music From Around the World

by David Marsh

With over a dozen instruments and stories about each, David entertains with music from around the world. This multi-cultural program is a musical expose of the influence that immigrants from around the world have had on our American culture. Audiences learn about the creativity of the “folk” who developed the instruments and musical styles, the role music has played in traditional cultures and the musical influences various cultures have had on one another in America.

Tales from Hans Christian Andersen

by Lisa Kramme

The delightful stories of Hans Christian Andersen are brought to life in the imaginations of audience members as Lisa Kramme shares tales by this great Danish author. Listeners also learn about the life of Andersen, including his early struggles and later successes.

Songs, Dances and Games of the Lakota

by Jerome Kills Small

Kills Small describes the history and origin of Native American songs and dances. A lecturer and storyteller who makes hand drums and pow-wow-size wood drums, Kills Small also is a singer of Lakota songs who has traveled extensively as a member of the Oyate Singers of Vermillion, S.D.

Children Stories, Animal Stories and Traditional Lakota Stories

by Jerome Kills Small

Kills Small tells children’s stories and animal stories that have been passed down for generations as part of the Lakota and Dakota Sioux traditions. Among the types of stories covered are iktomi (trickster tales) and ohunkanka (old legends). When speaking to adult audiences, Kills Small also analyzes the Native American storytelling tradition.

Ho For America! Northern European Immigrants to the Midwest

by Jeff Kappeler

Stories of immigrants who settled Nebraska contain fascinating accounts of sacrifice, courage and endurance. The journey to America was a difficult process that is examined in three parts: the decision, the journey and the adjustment. The presentation includes packing an actual immigrant chest and other essential baggage needed by the immigrant for the ocean voyage and the new life on the prairie.

Away and Across the Plains: Pioneer Trails through Nebraska

by Jeff Kappeler

Discover how pioneers passing through Nebraska territory in their journey west had a profound influence on the settling of the state. This presentation focuses on the lives and experiences of the emigrants and the pioneer inhabitants. It includes authentic artifacts used on the trail pertaining to the areas of transportation, food, clothing, tools and bedding.

The Otoe-Missouria Tribe: The Forgotten Nebraskans

by Matthew "Sitting Bear" Jones

This program celebrates the Otoe-Missouria Tribes. Matthew Jones is a member of the Otoe-Missouria Nation. He will talk about the Nation’s impact on the state of Nebraska, the Territory (Louisiana Purchase) to Statehood. Come take the journey of discovery and learn how these aboriginal people and our state effected each other.

Kiowa Tales

by Matthew "Sitting Bear" Jones

These are the stories, tales and legends of Set-Angia, Sitting Bear’s Native American people. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, these stories reveal the Kiowa vision of the world—from the time of Creation to the coming of the white man. Attired in native dress, Sitting Bear brings to the audience through his storytelling the thinking and customs of his Kiowa people, legends such as why the Crow is black and how the Coyote got his yell.

Overland Trails: The Children on the Trail

by Renae M. Hunt

With over 352,000 emigrants traveling the Oregon, Mormon or California trails, one in five were under the age of 16. Many of these youths kept journals. This program discusses how these children traveled and relates some of the stories from their journals. This program is appropriate for all ages.

Nebraska through Song and Story

by Dan Holtz

Nebraska has not only a rich tradition in literature but also a rich, less-publicized tradition in music. This program interweaves songs, accompanied on guitar and harmonica, with excerpts from works by Willa Cather, John Neihardt, Mari Sandoz and Bess Streeter Aldrich. In a narrative from about 1850 to 1904, it tells the stories of the people who came to and through early Nebraska, the pioneers who crossed the overland trails, the settlers and the Native Americans. This program can be tailored for either a young audience or an adult audience.

A Modern-day Encounter With the Santa Fe Trail

by Les Vilda

This program is presented by a scholar who has traveled the Santa Fe Trail twice by historical means: once walking with a pack donkey (1984) and once with a horse and wagon (1987). The program juxtaposes the history of the trail with Les’s experiences in the 1980’s, comparing the routes, modes of transportation and clothing used in modern-day historical reenactments to those of the 19th-century trail traveler. Sites along the trail are discussed regarding their historical significance in the heyday of the trail, as well as their present-day roles in interpreting the history of the trail.

Our Plains Indian Heritage

by Phyllis R. Stone

Stone, a descendant of Chief Iron Shell, an elder of the Rosebud Sioux tribe and a Sun Dancer, explains the uses and traditions of handmade items she brings for this presentation — items from both past and present American Indian cultures. Dressed in a traditional Sioux woman’s dress, she speaks about the life of the Rosebud Sioux as she shares artifacts. She describes life on the reservation and how her family combines their Indian heritage with other interests. Also included in the talk are artifacts and legends of the Mountain Man and the relationship of that culture to the Indians of the Plains.

Lifestyles of Lakota Women

by Phyllis R. Stone

As a descendant of Chief Iron Shell, a peace chief of the Rosebud Sioux, Stone shares her expertise on the lifestyle of a Lakota woman from birth to death. She describes changes that have come about in modern times, contrasting the contemporary lifestyles of Lakota women with past traditions. The degree to which Lakota women lead lives separately and distinctly from men in their tribe is discussed, and variations of practices that can be found among women in the tribe are described. Stone’s intimate knowledge of her Rosebud Sioux people and their ceremonies, her native attire and artifacts make this a rich and unique experience for young people

Folk Traditions Through Music

by David Seay

Designed for school groups, these programs give students hands-on experience with the harmonica and teach how music reflects cultural traditions and conveys them from one generation to the next.

The “Tradition” in Traditional Folk Music

by David Seay

David Seay examines how over the generations folk traditions of different cultures have merged to become our own traditions as immigrants have found their way to Nebraska. This presentation features demonstrations and stories of folk instruments such as harmonica, penny whistle, Lakota style flute, ocarina, pan pipes, yak horn, bugle, musical saw, banjo, singing bowl, and limbertoys. This show is very flexible and works for audiences of any age.

Nebraska’s Musical Smorgasbord: Music from Various Ethnic Groups in Nebraska

by Chris Sayre

This program explores the rich diversity of folk music that has been a part of Nebraska’s history from the time it was a territory to the present day. Performing on the button accordion, concertina, dulcimer, guitar, mandolin, musical saw and zithers, Sayre invites his audience to experience the music of the ethnic groups that have called Nebraska home.

Nebraska Territory Stories

by David Seay

In this upbeat presentation David performs folk music that existed at the time Nebraska became a state on March 1, 1867. Between tunes he discusses how these songs provide glimpses into history by telling stories of everyday life of the pioneers during the 13 years before Nebraska statehood.  This cheerful show works particularly well for family audiences as it has opportunities for volunteers to come up front and participate. Instruments featured are banjo, harmonica, whistles, and mountain dulcimer.

A Musical Journey Across America: Songs That Helped Shape a Nation

by Chris Sayre

From the engaging sea shanties of the Eastern Seaboard to the haunting songs of the Appalachian Mountains, from the blues of Mississippi to the pioneer songs of the American West, Chris Sayre brings to life the rich and varied music of the continental United States. Performing on guitar, mandolin, banjo, slide guitar, concertina, melodeon, lap dulcimer and musical saw, Chris captivates his audiences and leaves them with a deeper understanding of how we got to where we are today.

Ghosts, Goblins and Ghouls!

by Dorothy Rieke

This discussion about what makes a story scary includes plenty of terrifying examples. There are age-appropriate stories to thrill and chill any audience.

Andean Folk Music and Cultures of South America

by Oscar Rios Pohirieth

Experience the Andean cultures of Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru and Chile through an acoustic journey and storytelling. The founder and director of the award-winning Lincoln-based Andean musical group Kusi Taki (Quechua for Enchanting Music) will play traditional South American instruments including the Quena (flute), Zampoñas (panpipes), Charango (ten-stringed small guitar) and Bombo (goatskin drum) and sing in Spanish and Quechua to bring alive the cultures and history of the indigenous peoples of the Andes.

James Whitcomb Riley, the Fiddling Children’s Poet

by Deborah Greenblatt

Using Riley’s own words, Greenblatt weaves a whimsical glimpse into the world of this famous Hoosier poet. This show, performed in character and in costume, features musical settings of Riley’s poems composed by Greenblatt, as well as portions of Riley’s lectures (he toured with Edgar Allan Poe) and letters (he corresponded with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow).

Storytelling of the Dakota

by Joyzelle Gingway Godfrey

This presentation demonstrates the historic societal structure of the Dakota people through the medium of storytelling. The adventures of the first set of twins born in the world will give a glimpse of the family structure, food gathering and beliefs of their tribal people.

Storytelling and the Hispanic Oral Tradition

by Linda Garcia-Perez

An experienced storyteller, Garcia-Perez draws on her experiences as a young girl in Omaha’s Mexican-American barrio. Her stories convey a universal message of humor, wonder and tradition. The presentation can be tailored to focus on one of the following topics:

  • “Traditional Hispanic Stories for Families and Children” – using stories to bring to life the myths, fantasies and tales of Latin cultures
  • “Keeping the Oral Tradition Alive: Abuelita (Grandmother) Stories I Heard When I Was a Girl” – examples of stories based on rights of passage
  • ” Traditional Mexican, Central and South American Motifs as Vehicles for Folk Tales” – depicting the life and times of Hispanic People

Making Music Come Alive

by Phyllis Dunne

Dunne presents toe-tapping, hand-clapping, sing-along music for kids of all ages. An eclectic blend of folk and traditional music is performed with voice, dulcimer and piano, spiced with interesting historical and personal insights. Dunne combines entertainment and education for an interactive exploration of music appreciation.

Sing me a Story: The Ballad of Yesterday and Today

by Pat Boilesen

Whether it be the ballad of the immigrant of the 1800’s or the ballad of today, these songs tell the story of life and living, good and bad. This program explores the differences and similarities between the ballads of yesteryear and the ballads of today, and why they are still sung today.

The Mountain Dulcimer

by Bill Behmer by Gwen Meister

Using folk songs as illustrations, Bill Behmer outlines the history and folklore or this simple-to-play, inexpensive and often homemade American folk instrument. He discusses the dulcimer’s European and Asian ancestors and similar fretted zithers found in other traditions. He demonstrates and compares traditional and contemporary playing styles, a variety of tuning methods and how to play the dulcimer by ear. Bill is accompanied by his wife, Gwen Meister, singing harmony and playing autoharp and rhythm instruments.

Traditional Folk Music

by Bill Behmer by Gwen Meister

This presentation is a brief overview of Anglo-American folk music, including 500-year-old British Isles ballads and American folk songs over the centuries. Gwen Meister and Bill Behmer describe the “folk process” as they accompany themselves on mountain dulcimer, fiddle, autoharp and other traditional instruments.