While we may admire courage, not everyone is able to take a step toward greatness.  In fact, many would rather blend in rather than stand out.  These segments are about those who are willing to take a step forward when others take a step back.  Someone who is able to be independent is a rare breed.

This Season 10, episode 10 of Nebraska Stories features several individuals and groups who were willing to take a different approach.  All italicized text is directly from NET.  The rest of the words are my reflections on the stories.  My thoughts may not represent NET, but I do hope they add to the telling of the tales.

An Independent Drama Space: Building a Dream

What do you do when your small school needs a theater space? If you’re Tami Maytum, you organize a barn raising! When the Malcolm High School drama coach won a $10,000 national grant, it kickstarted her plan to build a practice space for her drama students. The Malcolm community rallied around Maytum and her students – raising another $50,000 in cash donations along with volunteering their muscle, skilled labor, and construction equipment. The result is a brand new home for the Malcolm High School drama program.

Because Maytum graduated from my high school, I remember being excited when I heard that she had won a grant.  That she would take the money and multiply it so well is truly inspiring.  Operating a drama program with a limited budget is challenging.  With her out-of-the-box thinking and independent approach, I know that Malcolm’s drama program will continue to go far under the direction of Maytum.

An Independent Film: The Dundee Theater

The Dundee Theater is the cornerstone of Omaha’s historic Dundee district.  The Dundee neighborhood is also home to Warren Buffett and the childhood home of Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alexander Payne.  The neighborhood theater opened in the 1925 and is the last of its kind in Omaha.  The theater closed in 2013 and sat dormant until 2017, when Susie Buffet’s Sherwood Foundation restored the building as a gift to Omaha’s Film Streams.  The once classic cinema has a renewed urban community design.  Today, Film Streams’ Dundee Theater is a fitting place to appreciate international and locally crafted films as an art form.

The days of independent films could come to end at some point if theaters do not take action.  That is why this story about this longtime Omaha area theater is so inspiring.  I know that I am definitely intrigued and hope to see a show there at some point.

An Inspired Musician: Winston, Kid Composer.

Winston Schneider is a typical fifth grader who likes insects, Legos, and Star Wars. Winston is also an award-winning classical composer who recently won the National Association for Music Education’s Student Composers Competition for his piece “Scherzo of the Feather Stars.” Winston says his compositions are inspired by insects and chemistry.

This young man’s ability is impressive.  Truly he has a gift.  Very few musicians are able to write compositions independently.  The fact that he is in elementary school is truly outstanding.

An Independent Rescue: Nebraska’s Schindler

During his tenure as president of a prestigious university, Alvin Saunders Johnson worked to save the lives of German Jewish scholars under persecution by Hitler. Born on a farm near Homer in 1874 to immigrant parents, Johnson would attain his undergrad at Nebraska and a PhD in economics at Columbia University. In 1923 he became the first president of the legendary New School University located in New York City. It was while serving as president that Johnson established the University in Exile where he hired Jewish scholars fleeing Nazi Germany. 184 scholars accepted Johnson’s invitation to teach, bringing their families with them to America – saving some 500 lives. Johnson lived an extraordinary life and in May of 2014, he was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame.
When I was in college, a friend and I went to Schindler’s List for a college assignment.  While the story is challenging to watch, learning how Schindler chose to save others was compelling.  Discovering that a Nebraska man also chose to make a difference and save others was also inspiring.  Only an independent thinker would be willing to take such risks.  Nebraska adding Alvin Johnson to the state hall of fame was a great choice.

Author: neodyssey

My name is Gretchen Garrison. I started this blog about Nebraska in 2013. So far, I have written three books about Nebraska and Lincoln.