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Editorial: Omaha has a vibrant arts community, thanks to local talent and philanthropy
Symphony Centennial

Editorial: Omaha has a vibrant arts community, thanks to local talent and philanthropy

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The Omaha Symphony during the pandemic is a lot like that in 1921, which had 50 members. The orchestra has been distancing onstage for safety. It usually includes 42 core full-time members, 28 contract players and a number of additional musicians who are hired on a concert-by-concert basis.

Omaha punches above its weight in many regards, thanks to local vision, professionalism and philanthropy. Omaha’s arts community provides an excellent example.

Consider the philanthropic contributions by the late Richard “Dick” Holland and his wife, Mary, which benefited a wide range of Omaha arts institutions. The Hollands’ crowning achievement was their financial support that enabled creation of the downtown Holland Performing Arts Center. Since opening in 2005, the Holland Center has provided a world-class venue for artists from around the globe. Blues artists, jazz ensembles, classical music virtuosos and many other renowned performers have brought their talents to the Holland Center, greatly enriching the cultural life of our city.

That success stems in large part through the professionalism of Omaha Performing Arts and its president, Joan Squires. The organization manages the Holland Center as well as the Orpheum Theater, and coordinates all performances.

Bruce Simon, an Omaha business leader who passed away last week, provided another example of Omaha philanthropic vision, for the local arts community as well as other nonprofit endeavors of civic value. Omaha has benefited greatly from the forward-looking philanthropic work of the Simon family and Omaha Steaks.

The Holland Center is the performance site for the Omaha Symphony, which has long shown its commitment to artistic ambition as well as community outreach. Strong local support, through financial giving and membership, has provided important stability for the symphony. This year the organization is celebrating its centennial. Thomas Wilkins, the longtime music director, has proved a popular, compelling leader for the past 15 years. Now he is passing the baton to his successor, Ankush Kumar Bahl, who has demonstrated his conducting passion in performances here.

Omahans can be proud of the accomplishments and vision of our artistic community. Our city is fortunate to the local talent and philanthropic support that make it possible.

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