Intergenerational Orchestra of Omaha

Organization Associated with Program
Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging
4223 Center Street,
Omaha, Nebraska 68105

The Intergeneration Orchestra of Omaha brings together performing artists of two eras, joined through the universal language of music. Musicians may audition if they are either 50 or older or younger than 25. There are no minimum or maximum age limits, and the 2012-2013 orchestra is composed of 63 musicians who range in age from 12 to 82. The orchestra’s annual season runs from September through April and includes seven concerts. Performances are given at long-term care facilities and retirement homes in the community, and there is also a “Pops & Pie” concert open to the general public. The orchestra has benefited from stable, long-term leadership by professional musicians and teaching artists, which has enabled it to grow and flourish over the years. Since its founding, the orchestra has toured nationally ten times, including performances in Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Mount Rushmore, Bella Vista (Arkansas), Kansas City, Dallas, and Estes Park (Colorado).

The Intergeneration Orchestra of Omaha performs a lively repertoire of well-known movie and television themes, along with popular hits that span the generations. In addition, the group performs original compositions written for the orchestra by its conductor Chuck Penington, who creates music to complement the unique blend of musicians that comprise the ensemble. The orchestra was featured on a segment of “Good Morning America” in 1990, in which Mr. Penington discussed the challenges that come with an orchestra of musicians with such a large age span.

The rose and the bud on its logo symbolize the concept of the Intergeneration Orchestra of Omaha. The rose in full bloom signifies the lifetime of experience brought to the group by older musicians, while the rosebud represents the emerging talents of younger artists.

Program History

Chris Gillette and Cora Lee Bell formed the Intergeneration Orchestra of Omaha in the spring of 1985. The orchestra began with funding from the Peter Kiewit Foundation and sponsorship of the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging (ENOA). The orchestra is currently funded entirely through grants, donations, memberships, fundraisers, and performance fees. The ENOA also contributes a variety of in-kind services to assist with the ongoing administration needs of the group. The orchestra is governed by a board of directors, which includes elected orchestra musicians, two older and two younger.

Program Assessments and Evaluations

The program is evaluated by recording the rate of return of participants and invitations to perform by venues (to assess the performance effectiveness).

Advice for Other Organizations Conducting Similar Programs

Patience and flexibility are key when developing your arts program.

Kinds of creative engagement/ program focus Presenting a Performance, Participate in a Class, Participate in a Workshop, Participate in an Ensemble
Arts Discipline: Music
Interdisciplinary Connections: Volunteerism
Target Audience: Active Adults, Intergenerational
Program Setting: Healthcare - Long Term Care, House of Worship / Religious Center
Program Service Area: Rural, Suburban, Urban
Type of Practice: Field Tested Best Practice