by Andrew Norman | photo by Alex Matzke
On short, trampled carpet in a fluorescent-lit, concrete-walled room in the basement of College of St. Mary's science building, I saw something awesome behind the scenes at Love Drunk
's video shoot at nonprofit Omaha Girls Rock
. It's subtle, but perhaps even more telling for Nebraska's music community's future than the notable stats organizer Jenn Walker (see her in Fortnight's LD video
) sent me about the weeklong camp, including that:
• This year's camp hosted 46 girls, including 17 (of 26) returning from last year's inaugural. That's a 65 percent return rate, and a 43 percent increase;
• About 40 volunteers helped run the camp, including five core organizers. That's close to a 1:1 ratio of teachers/students;
• Ten volunteers with music experience (some with hefty resumes) became coaches and were assigned a band. Ten more band counselors were paired with band coaches to help teach the essentials, including communication and problem-solving;
• Omaha Girls Rock coaches, counselors and others taught 10 workshops throughout the week (two per day);
• About 15 instrument instructors each worked with two-five girls in 10 different instrument instruction rooms (three guitar, three drum, one vocal, one keyboard and two bass).
Those are good indicators that the organization is growing, and will only have a larger presence in our current and future music scenes. So are the five girls in the Love Drunk video (directed by HN co-founder Angie Norman and featuring videography by Lindsay Trapnell), performing a legitimately catchy song, which they finished writing during sound check — hey, it's a fast-moving camp. See the video here
But even more telling for me were the five coaches/counselors standing behind the seven shooters with their hands clasped in front of their faces, holding their breath, mouthing lyrics to their campers, nodding encouragement and channeling any other visual assistance they could ensure the girls' success. You only see these women at the very end of the video after about four takes/practices to get the keeper, but they were heavily animated, and almost as much fun to watch as the musicians.
"While a lot of our volunteers are musicians," Walker says via email, "a lot are also teachers, social workers, music teachers, etc."
They were like the best kind of soccer moms, each of them — the kind who inspire, rather than pressure. You'll find similar passion for teaching at the Academy of Rock
in Lincoln and School of Rock
in Omaha, both organizations which offer multiple programs — and employ local musicians — to teach young people musical skills that breed confidence.
None of these organizations were around before 2007, but they play critical roles in building Nebraska's strong music foundation. After all, not all of these kids will go on to rock on stage. But some of them might run or work for venues, promotion companies and other small businesses that are as much a part of the music community as the bands. Getting kids interested at a young age in local music is good for the community's longevity and vitality, not to mention the skills they learn that make them stronger citizens.
Then there's economic impact: Nebraska's nonprofit arts and culture industry generates more than $174 million annually, supporting 6,473 full-time equivalent jobs across the state, both directly and indirectly, and generating $18.7 million in local and state government revenues, according to the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV national economic impact study. (Another awesome nonprofit, Nebraskans for the Arts
, keeps track of these things.)
It's going to take more teachers like those who poured their hearts into last week's Omaha Girls Rock camp to inspire tomorrow's arts community. And I encourage you to get involved and/or support those groups however you can.
I know I'm speaking to the choir — the music community loaned or donated about 400 separate pieces of music equipment to Omaha Girls Rock this year. Still, please spread the word about your favorite organizations to people who can help in even bigger ways.
After all, we understand how to raise things from the ground up in Nebraska. So with proper cultivation, care and exposure to sunlight, there's no reason our music and arts community can't grow a similar kind of identity that keeps Austin weird
while becoming a magnet to creative people.
Don't forget to water your crops.
Andrew Norman is Hear Nebraska's editor-in-chief. He hopes you support Maha Music Festival this Saturday. HN will be there as part of Maha's Community Village, helping kids make instruments and spreading the good word. Contact him at email@example.com.