Learning from the masters

by Michele Tilley and Matthew Boring 

Each year, thousands of students look to the University of Nebraska to expand their understanding of the world by learning from top scholars and experienced researchers. The Lied Center for Performing Arts sees its work as a unique extension of the university’s academic offerings, putting students in direct dialogue with the best artists and creative thinkers in the world. Nearly every artist who performs on the Lied Center stage at 301 N. 12th St. will also engage directly with students on campus or in the community. Through a variety of experiences, such as master classes, lectures, talk backs and class visits, students demonstrate their skills, test their knowledge and learn from the masters.

Last year, the Lied Center hosted the Mariinsky Orchestra, one of the top orchestral ensembles in the world. The iconic orchestra from St. Petersburg, Russia, brought 200 years of history to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and stunned audiences with its performance of master works by Debussy, Rachmaninoff and Mahler. Before taking the Lied Center stage, four performers from Mariinsky visited the Glenn Korff School of Music, where they offered master classes for students studying violin, viola, cello and bass. Students performed for the visiting artists and received feedback via translators from the UNL Department of Modern Languages. 

“I heard things that I haven’t ever heard from other teachers,” said one student. 

Shortly after the Mariinsky Orchestra, the Lied Center played host to another international cultural sensation, the stunning Ballet Folklórico de México. Arriving in Nebraska immediately after a run at Mexico City’s historic Palacio de Bellas Artes, Ballet Folklórico brought Mexican history to life through dance, music and spirit. Unparalleled in their preservation of cultural art forms, musicians and dancers from the company offered a folklórico dance master class for UNL dance students and a mariachi workshop for middle school students from Lincoln Public Schools. 

“I love being able to experience dance from another culture and also learn about the professional dance companies,” said one student. “It was definitely a great experience.” 

Harry Connick Jr. made an unforgettable return to the Lied Center last December, performing original compositions and beloved songs from the American Songbook to a sold-out  crowd. Before his performance, he hosted an Ask Me Anything session with vocal music and piano performance students from the University of Nebraska’s Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts. Students gathered in close as Connick gave career advice from atop a gleaming Steinway piano. He talked about his journey as a singer, arranger, composer, band leader, actor and TV host and answered questions about how to build an ensemble, how to distinguish oneself as a performer and how to take rejection. 

Later in the year, singer, composer, actor, author, comedian and multi-instrumentalist Paul Shaffer visited the Lied Center. Shaffer, who starred on Late Night with David Letterman as band leader and musical director, came to town during the Glenn Korff School of Music’s weekly convocation series, a class attended by all students working toward a music degree. More than 250 students attended a mini-master class and participated in a question-and-answer session with Shaffer. Students and faculty alike hung on every word as he offered a comedic retelling of his career highs and lows—and endless pieces of advice. 

This anniversary season should be another transformative year for students at the Lied Center. This important work is a cooperative effort between the Lied Center staff, the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts and faculty across the university.


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