Omaha is fortunate to have a symphony conductor of the talent and leadership of Thomas Wilkins. It’s fortunate, too, to have a forward-looking symphony organization buoyed by our community’s impressive philanthropic support.
World-Herald staff writer Casey Logan reported the encouraging news last week that a three-year contract extension has been reached for Wilkins, the Omaha Symphony’s music director since 2005.
From his very first appearance on stage at the then-new Holland Performing Arts Center, Wilkins has displayed an admirable combination of talents: an engaging stage presence, the ability to explain artistic ideas in accessible language, a strong leadership capability that promotes enthusiasm and a sense of common purpose among the orchestra members.
To that list of achievements, one should add Wilkins’ dedication to community outreach. The symphony organization as a whole, with Wilkins in the forefront, shows great energy in providing educational programs and special concerts that build connections with the community. Wilkins himself has long stood out as a compelling public speaker.
It’s no wonder that Wilkins, while continuing in his principal role with the symphony here, is in high demand as a guest conductor in other communities, including some of our nation’s largest cities. Californians applaud him when he leads the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra just as New Englanders give him cheers when he leads family and youth concerts with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
It’s a credit to Omaha — to the capability of its symphony organization and the dedication of its classical music audience and philanthropic community — that we can attract and retain a leader of Wilkins’ ability and keep the symphony on sound footing at a time when many arts organizations around the country are coping with financial challenges.
This is one more case where Omahans should appreciate our good fortune and build on it for the future.