October 30, 2013

Review: Symphony Spooktacular – The Kids Sat Still!

Mooch and the cello.

Mooch and the cello.

My kids went to a symphony concert and sat through almost all of it. I know!

OK, this wasn’t just any symphony concert. Omaha Symphony put on its annual “Symphony Spooktacular” on Sunday – an hour-long production that catered to the tastes of antsy youngsters in itchy costumes. Farley was enthralled for the entire show. Unexpectedly, Mooch sat through most of it (only two potty breaks). This is a huge step for the 2-year-old.

Have you ever gone to any of shows in the symphony’s Family Series? I think I’m sold on these. For the cost, you can’t beat the intro to orchestral music.

What to expect

Family Series shows start at the kid-friendly 2 p.m. time slot. An hour before the show starts, the lobby comes alive with activities based on the performance and the instrument petting zoo. Since this was a Halloween concert, there were spooky photo opps (including a fun photo booth). You might want to claim some seats before exploring the pre-show fun since it’s general admission. Tips: Don’t sit too close, no matter how much your kid begs, and aim for the center section for a good overall view of the orchestra. If your kid is likely going to need a potty break or a time out, claim the coveted aisle seat.

The petting zoo was crowded but my kids got to try their hand at a few instruments.

A trumpet-playing pirate. And by trumpet-playing, I mean he touched a trumpet and made no sounds.

A trumpet-playing pirate. And by trumpet-playing, I mean he touched a trumpet and made no sounds.

Don’t worry, they clean those things.

The show itself is short by performing arts standards, and not at all boring. It opened with “Thriller,” for crying out loud. Many musicians wore costumes (there was a fun little costume contest during the show). It was all visually appealing, with a little mood lighting, the colorful costumes, the personable conductor Ernest Richardson, and of course, just seeing the instruments themselves.

What kept the show entertaining for the young audience were “the extras”: The dancers, the martial artists (who did a “Star Wars” themed choreographed fight), and the Man in the Moon.

After the performance, the kids were invited to trick or treat in the lobbies of the Holland Center. It was a mad house.

Timing a potty break

Since the performance itself is so short, try to get your kids to go before it begins. The ushers stop you from returning to your seats during a song, so you will have to wait at the door until the song ends.

Will an adult like this?

I can’t vouch for the rest of the shows in the series, but the “Symphony Spooktacular” was a good show. I liked seeing my kids eyes light up when characters danced on stage, the “Whoa!” look on Mooch’s face during a particularly intense moment. Plus, I’m admittedly not able to sit through long symphonic performances, so one hour is good for me too. And everyone in my family liked the casualness of the day. Jeans are OK at shows like these.

If you want to go to the next show

“Mozart’s Missing Memory” is next in the Omaha Symphony Family Series. It is Jan. 19, 2014, at 2 p.m. at the Holland Center. Tickets are general admission for $12.

September 23, 2013

The Family-Friendly Omaha Symphony

Updated on February 22, 2018

If you’re of a certain age, your earliest memories of classical music probably are tied to Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. How about your kids? Have they been exposed to classical music, or even better, have they watched it played LIVE? Mine neither, so don’t feel bad.

It’s easy to change that. Omaha Symphony has programming designed especially for young concert-goers (plus plenty of other options outside of the Family Series that will appeal to kids).

Introducing your child to the symphony shouldn't be intimidating. Photo courtesy the Omaha Symphony

Introducing your child to the symphony shouldn’t be intimidating.                           Photo courtesy the Omaha Symphony

“It’s such a wonderful experience to bring young listeners to,” said T. Adam Goos, vice president of education and community partnerships. “You can’t describe it, how the music can affect you and impact you… The live experience (of music) is something unique and powerful and splendid. Everybody should give it a shot at least once.”

Goos walked me through the season and shared the family-friendly highlights:

Omaha Symphony Family Series

The most kid-friendly of all is the Omaha Symphony Family Series, which Goos said is designed for a range of ages, from really young kids on up to early teens. Show up early to these as there are pre-show activities!

Kids check out the instrument petting zoo before a performance in the Omaha Symphony's Family Series.

Kids check out the instrument petting zoo before a performance in the Omaha Symphony’s Family Series.  Photo courtesy the Omaha Symphony.

Each one will have an instrument petting zoo where kids can explore violins, brass, percussion, that sort of thing. “It’s a really great way for kids to get their hands on the instruments they’re about to see.” Other activities will depend on the concert.

All Family Series concerts start at 2 p.m., and they’re built for an audience who can’t handle hour-long segments (um, what about kids who can’t handle 5-minute long segments like my daughter…).

Best of all? These shows are super affordable for families.

Omaha Symphony Movie Series

This series is appealing to families because of the familiarity of the music, I think. In the Movie Series, the orchestra plays the accompanying music score to the movie as it’s screened in the Holland Performing Arts Center. In the 2017-2018, the remaining movies are “Back to the Future” (Feb. 24, 2018) and “Jurassic Park” (April 28, 2018).

More Omaha Symphony Series

Goos said children can go to just about any show in the series, it just depends on the child (and the family). He’s brought children to MasterWorks and while they might not stay for the entire concert, they got a lot from the experience.

I looked through the season and here are some shows I think would be fun for a variety of age groups:


  • “Christmas Spectacular”  – Reindeer, Santa sightings and lots of flashy stuff are all part of this annual holiday tradition. Younger kids will like it but probably not last through the full length of the show in the evening.
  • Symphony Rocks Series – Probably the series with the most recognizable music, these shows usually have a tribute band (and vocalist) backed by the symphony. It may or may not be to your taste, as in the past, I thought the concert would’ve been more enjoyable with just the symphony playing the music, rather than a tribute band that’s not up to par. The March 24, 2018 concert “A Tribute to David Bowie” would be awesome to see.

Check out the rest of the 2017-2018 season here.


Hey! You found the fifth anniversary giveaway for Omaha Symphony tickets. Congrats! Omaha Symphony is giving one reader FOUR tickets to see the April 15 show “Symphony In Space.” It’s the final Family Series show of the season, featuring music from “Star Wars,” “The Planets” and more. Winner receives tickets to the 2 p.m. performance – please note: Tickets are all general admission, so arrive early to snag seats and enjoy the pre-show lobby activities for children (activities start at 1:15).

To enter, click the Rafflecopter entry form and get started. Giveaway ends March 26, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. CST. One winner will be randomly drawn, and will receive an email from me within 48 hours. Winner has 48 hours to reply before another name is drawn. Must be 18 or older to enter. Tickets have no cash value and may not be exchanged for another performance.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t miss the other Omaha Symphony giveaway going on in the Facebook Group, Things To Do In Omaha & Beyond! I’m giving away TWO tickets to Omaha Symphony’s “Jurassic Park” on April 28, 2018. Giveaway starts Monday, March 12. I’ll draw a winner on March 19.