Music 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.

And All That Jazz

by Randall Snyder

A survey of the development of American jazz from the late nineteenth century to the present, with special emphasis on its African American origins and the stylistic idioms of individual performers. Lectures will incorporate PowerPoint visual images with historic recordings and live demonstrations using piano and other instruments.

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.

Music on the Trail: Where American Folk Songs Meet Classical Art Music

by Donna Gunn

Venture from the mysterious bayou of the Deep South, experience the vastness of the open prairie, feel the energy from atop Scottsbluff National Monument, and triumph in the accomplishment of fording the mountains to the Promised Land as you cross the Oregon Trail. Gunn provides an interactive experience with music inspired from American Folk songs and brought to life by American composers such as Roy Harris, R. Nathanial Dett, and Aaron Copland.

Discoveries from the Fortepiano

by Donna Gunn

Travel back to the Enlightenment where intellectual and creative individualism flourished! Explore and hear the revolutionary developments in the piano that Beethoven, Haydn, and Mozart capitalized on in their composing. Experience the marked influence of Affekt and Strum und Drang;  feel the frustrations, angst, and joys expressed through the Viennese Sigh; all distinctive traits of the eighteenth century, where music mirrored the dynamic social changes of the time. Visual presentations and solo piano performance by Gunn.

Getting to Know Weldon Kees Through His Songs and Lyrics

by Helen Waring Johnson

Beatrice Nebraska native Weldon Kees, known primarily for his dark poetry, was also one of the mid-century’s most versatile and artistic personalities–an abstract expressionist artist, photographer, accomplished pianist and  composer-lyricist of popular songs. Singer-Songwriter Waring Johnson discusses Kees and performs from this little known repertoire focusing on Kees’ witty, intelligent lyrics of songs written in collaboration with San Francisco clarinetist Bob Helm.

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.

Echoes of an Era

by Paul Siebert

Using the Nebraska State Seal and Flag as a back drop, Paul presents a musical living history program of a family’s journey from Russia to Nebraska in the 1870’s.  Using original and period music with up to 7 different acoustic instruments, storytelling, personal family history, period costume and extensive knowledge on the subject of Blacksmithing/metallurgy, Paul presents an interactive family centered entertaining program.   The presentation is carefully adjusted to suit the specific age group, special interest, time constraints of the listener, and can include the specific event’s local Nebraska history.

Corps of Discovery in Song and Story

by Michael F. McDonald

Through original songs and stories, McDonald leads a lively celebration of the challenges and adventures faced by the members of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery.

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 Ireland

by David Marsh

From Sligo to the Ring of Kerry and from Galway Bay to Dublin, Marsh presents various musical styles from the Emerald Isle. He uses many instruments, including the accordion, penny whistle, Northumbrian pipes and bodhran (Irish drum), to perform jigs, reels, rebel songs, and sing-a-longs. His stories tell of Irish legends, elves and fairies, historical events of famine and wars and the joys and sorrows of immigrating to a new land. David has performed Irish folk music for over 20 years with local Irish bands Paddywhack and Ellis Island, the later which can be heard regularly in Omaha and the Kansas City area.

Music of the Germanic Lands

by David Marsh

From sailing songs of the North Sea to yodel music of the Alps, and from the Rhine to Vienna, David presents music from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Drawing on his experience of three years living in Switzerland and a bachelor’s degree in German, David sings folk songs and demonstrates the history of traditional German music on various instruments, including the accordion, autoharp (chorded zither), hammered dulcimer and others. Audiences hear stories and songs, in both German and English, describing the history and culture of Germanic lands.

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.

The Klondike Goldrush , Seen Through the Eyes of Robert W. Service, Bard of the Yukon

by Stuart C. Lynn

In a Chautauqua-style presentation, Lynn portrays the Scottish-born poet Robert W. Service. Lynn revives the age-old art of storytelling with personal recollections and renditions of ballads about the Klondike gold rush. Service lived and wrote in the Yukon between 1903 and 1910. The program introduces listeners to such characters as Dangerous Dan McGrew, Sam McGee, Blasphemous Bill McGee, Salvation Bill and others.

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.

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.

From Bleeding Kansas to Old Virginny: Songs and Stories of the Civil War

by Dan Holtz

For four years, the Civil War raged on such storied battlefields as Gettysburg and Antietam in the East to lesser-known places like La Glorieta Pass in New Mexico. With guitar and harmonica accompaniment, Holtz performs songs that express the war’s wide variety of sentiments, issues and stories. The program includes some of the popular patriotic and sentimental parlor songs. Thus, the war is chronicled and tied to memorable excerpts from some of the great conflict’s novels, poems and short stories. Holtz can also present the program as living history by portraying fictional Nebraska Territory settler Matthias Parker telling stories and anecdotes as though gleaned from newspapers of the day or from returning veterans. As Parker, Holtz comments on and quotes such personalities as Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee and John Brown.

I Got the Blues, and I Can’t Be Satisfied

by C.A. Waller

What is the blues? The blues is what a blues singer sings. The blues, the first truly American art form, is not monolithic, but instead is a widely diverse and vital art form. This presentation introduces eight basic types of blues songs and gives the audience a better understanding of the forms of songs that comprise the blues. The basic historical background of each song is discussed, and audience participation is encouraged.

Lordy Lordy, Baby Baby: The Blues and Gospel Music

by John Walker

In gospel music, they say “Lordy Lordy.” In blues music, they say “Baby Baby.” This presentation explores the differences as well as the connections between the blues and gospel music, with reflections on growing up in small-town Oklahoma Methodist churches. Many musical examples from each genre are offered.

They Call It Stormy Monday: Evolution of the Blues

by Randall Snyder

Musician and composer Snyder relates the evolving history of the blues and its importance as African-American expression, as well as its seminal and continuing impact on contemporary popular music. This program is for grade nine to adult.

It’s Only Rock & Roll

by Randall Snyder

This presentation takes a look at popular music and its interaction with social history, with topics ranging from Elvis Presley and the origins of rock to the Beatles and the Stones to punk and alternative rock forms.

Encounters with World Music

by Randall Snyder

These introductory remarks on non-Western systems of art and folk music include such topics as Islamic music from North Africa and the Middle East, the structure of the North Indian raga, the Indonesian gamelan and traditional music from Korea. This presentation features recordings, video material and demonstrations of instruments.

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.

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.

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.