Hula-hooping adolescent string musicians will be dancing their way out to western Nebraska from Omaha this weekend.
Over 30 students from the Omaha Conservatory of Music’s Frontier Strings group will be performing at various Scottsbluff locations, as well as putting on a show out at Fort Robinson. Executive director of the conservatory and Frontier Strings director Ruth Meints said with roots in Scottsbluff, she always likes to find ways to bring musical opportunities to the Panhandle.
“My hometown is Scottsbluff,” Meints said. “My parents live there still. I’m very attached to western Nebraska. As a lonely string player in western Nebraska and now a director of the Omaha Conservatory of Music, I like to make sure we bring fun things out to the area if I can do it.”
The Frontier Strings is made up of around 36 students ages seven to 18 who have to audition for the group and meet a certain level of playing ability, Meints said.
“The kids play everything from memory,” she said. “It’s very interactive. They do all kinds of things which makes it (the show) really fun.”
The Frontier Strings will be touring the state for the first time in two years. In past summers, the stunt musician group has played venues like Mount Rushmore, Oregon Trail Days and Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. They’ve even done a few tours abroad in Austria and Germany. They did not tour last year due to COVID-19, but instead recorded a holiday album with music from their popular holiday show in Omaha.
This year, the young musicians will be playing a total of eight shows, four of which will be at different Scottsbluff venues. The 45-minute show will include pop songs, fiddle music and show tunes. One show will include a special collaboration with the Scottsbluff String Sprouts led by Ashley Hillman.
“They’re (students) super excited, but they don’t really know what to expect because they’ve never seen them or met them,” Hillman said.
The String Sprouts is a five-year program that teaches string instruments to children starting at the ages of three and four. It was started by Meints as a way to bring string musical education to underserved areas, including rural towns like Scottsbluff. Hillman teaches the program using Meints’ curriculum.
Hillman said she is looking forward to having her Sprouts students, as well as some of her orchestra students from Scottsbluff Public Schools, play with the Frontier Strings on Saturday.
“It raises the bar for my students to see what they can accomplish and how great they can sound, because we don’t really have any other string program out here. They don’t have anybody to compare themselves to,” she said. “So when we do find some really good players that come out, getting the opportunity to play with them really helps raise the bar for my kids that I teach out here.”
Meints said the show should be a good one, and the community should come out to enjoy it.
“If they’re looking for a very, very entertaining evening, then this is the place to be,” she said. “You will not regret coming and seeing young people play their hearts out. … It’s a good mix of different types of music. It’s very family friendly, and it will be a fun thing to do Saturday night.”
The Frontier Strings will perform with the Scottsbluff String Sprouts on Saturday, May 29, at 7 p.m. at Centennial Park in Scottsbluff. Other tour dates in the area include:
• Friday, May 28, Fort Robinson State Park, Crawford, 7 p.m.
• Sunday, May 30, First United Methodist Church, Scottsbluff, 9:30 a.m.
• Sunday, May 30, Chuckwagon Church, Scottsbluff, 11 a.m.
• Monday, May 31, Western Nebraska Veterans Home, Scottsbluff, 9:30 a.m.
Each show is free and open to the public, no tickets required.
The Scottsbluff String Sprouts are currently accepting applications for new students ages three to five (if they haven’t started kindergarten). The program is free and can take a total of 30 new students. Register online at www.stringsprouts.org. Contact Ashley Hillman with questions at 308-672-5172.