Beyond the stage and into classrooms and communities, the Lied Center provides life-changing arts education

by Lauren Durban

Each year, the Lied Center for Performing Arts brings top artists and shows from around the world to Lincoln to thrill audiences from across the state of Nebraska. Beyond these unforgettable performances, what makes the Lied Center even more unique is that nearly every artist that appears on stage also works with local students, taking their exceptional artistry into the classroom. As part of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, education is at the core of the Lied Center’s mission. Through master classes, arts camps, traveling artists, student matinees, and more, thousands of Nebraska students experience life-changing arts education opportunities every season. 

Master classes are a key piece of the Lied’s educational outreach, matching artists with students in related disciplines. In recent years, students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and from the greater Lincoln community have learned from artists including Yo-Yo Ma, Bernadette Peters, Wynton Marsalis, Danny Elfman, Misty Copeland, Harry Connick Jr., and many more. Josh Cutting, a graduate student in conducting at UNL’s Glenn Korff School of Music who recently got to work one-on-one with famed Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, called his experience “once-in-a-lifetime,” saying “imagine being a young quarterback and getting the chance to work with Tom Brady or being an actor and getting to do a masterclass with Meryl Streep. It’s inspiring, because it shows that your goals are reachable, they’re possible, and there is a clear pathway from where you are to being at the pinnacle of your profession.” 

Other talented young artists choose to spend their summers at the Lied Center as part of either the Triple Threat Broadway Intensive or the Piano Academy. Both camps, which also serve as a meaningful way to give talented high school students a taste of life on a college campus, are led by artists at the top of their fields including Tony Award-winning musicians and internationally-recognized pianists. Mia Huether, a student from Lincoln who attended the Lied Center Triple Threat Broadway Intensive for four summers and is now a college freshman studying musical theater in New York City, says, “I truly attribute my whole theater journey to this intensive. This whole experience builds so much confidence in who you are. I was able to pursue auditioning for musical theater for college, and I would never have even dreamed of doing that without this program.”

The Lied Center is deeply committed to the belief that the arts are for everyone, and it is with this belief at the forefront that an exciting new program will allow the Lied to welcome every 6th grader in Lincoln Public Schools to experience the power of live performance in 2023! Ibex Puppetry’s Ajijaak on Turtle Island is a beautiful story created by Indigenous artists and featuring spectacular puppetry from the Jim Henson Creature Shop, and thousands of young people will get to experience it for free. The Lied Center also has longstanding partnerships with schools in Indigenous communities throughout the state, and these students will also travel to Lincoln to experience the show.

The Lied Center also takes artists beyond the walls of the theater and into schools throughout the area. When dance ensemble Step Afrika! recently brought their thrilling high-energy stepping to the Lied stage, they also participated in a week-long residency in Lincoln, visiting local Title 1 elementary and middle schools and teaching masterclasses for high school and college dancers. In all, nearly 1,000 students were impacted. Beyond Lincoln, the Lied’s Arts Across Nebraska program also takes exciting artists and events across the state of Nebraska. Last season, those tours included performances from Chicago Dance Crash, a Chicago-based hip-hip dance ensemble emphasizing storytelling and accessibility, and Kerfuffle’s Firefly, a forest-themed, shadow-puppetry theatre piece created specifically for children 6 and under. In total, these events served over 2,250 students and community members through school matinees and public performances in three Central and Western Nebraska communities—Sidney, Minden, and Kearney. By taking world-class artists into the community to interact with students where they are, the Lied Center continues its work in breaking down barriers to life-changing arts education experiences. 

The Lied Center is proud to build brighter futures for Nebraska’s young people through the power of the arts. 

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