At 7:40 P.M. Monday, September 26, 1977, Darwyn “Tony” Snyder brought down his baton and 70 adult amateur musicians responded by playing Henry Fillmore’s Americans We. The Nebraska Wind Symphony, Omaha’s Community Concert Band was born. Snyder and others had long recognized the need for an outlet for individuals who had spent years in high school and college band programs, only to be forced to put their musical instruments aside after graduation for lack of a place and group with which to play. Surely, they reasoned, there must be hundreds of adults with instrumental music training who found themselves in such circumstances, and indeed there were!
Since that first rehearsal in 1977, over 650 musicians have participated in more than 165 concerts. The organization has commissioned five new works for band. The band has performed under the guest baton of some of the country’s most renowned composers and conductors including: the late Claude T. Smith, the late Alfred Reed, Timothy Mahr, James Christensen, Craig Jessop, and Bob Foster. Guest instrumentalists include: Marian McPartland, jazz piano, David Low, cello, Neil Archer Roan, guitar, Mike Freeman, marimba, Paula Hatcher, flute, Christine Beard, flute/piccolo, Cindy Nichols, clarinet, Charles Saenz, trumpet, Scott Anderson, trombone, Jennifer Bales, trumpet, Pete Madsen, trombone as well as members of the band and NWS Scholarship recipients. Numerous local vocalists have also been featured including Ardeth Elsberry, Beth Asbjornson, Laureen Pickle, Mary Carrick, Drew Duncan, Kim Lomax, and many others. Guest narrators have included: Mike Kelly. In addition, the NWS has participated in a variety of local civic celebrations such as a community “welcome home” for veterans of Desert Storm and the dedication of a memorial commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Middle School All-Stars
In 2001, Deb Lund and Director Tim Yontz collaborated to develop the NWS Middle School All-Star feature. Since that year, NWS has engaged with area middle school band directors to feature their top instrumentalists on various instruments on a mass solo/ensemble with the band at our Winter concert. The young instrumentalists get an opportunity to work with a clinician one evening and rehearse with the band accompaniment as they perform on one or two selections. This fun event provides students, parents, and their band directors the opportunity to experience one of the instrumental performance options that exist for adults within the community. They are also exposed to the possibility they have for a life-long experience with music.
Youth Education Partnership
In some years, Music in Catholic Schools honor band is featured in place of the middle school all-stars. This gives these young instrumentalists an opportunity to show their musical talents to the community and they get to sit in with seasoned instrumentalists on a combined number.
Community Band Involvement
NWS hosted the national convention of the Association of Concert Bands one year in the early 1990s. Fifty members of the band made a trip to Quincy, IL to play at the 2005 national convention of the Association of Concert Bands.
Still Active After 40 Years!
Currently over 70 musicians, including some original members, continue to work together Larry MacTaggart to provide the Omaha area with band music ranging from transcriptions to new, original works for band.
The NWS also provides members the opportunity to play in smaller ensembles. Some of these ensembles include the NWS Swingtones, a Big Band; the Blackwoods Wind Ensemble, a clarinet choir; the NWS Saxophone Quartet; and the Saints and Sinners, a Dixieland combo.
Music Directors of the Nebraska Wind Symphony
Tony Snyder, 1977 to 1995
Larry MacTaggart, 1995 through 1997
Dr. Timothy Yontz, 1998 to 2003
Dr. Erica Neidlinger, 2004 to July, 2007
Janet McCaskill, 2007 to July, 2009
Dr. Courtney Snyder, 2009 to May, 2014
Larry MacTaggart, May, 2014 to July, 2019 – NOTE Larry resigned in January 2020 while on sabbatical from the 2019-2020 concert season.
Dr. Joshua Kearney, August 2019 to current – NOTE Josh was the Visiting Music Director during the 2019-2020 concert season
Associate Directors of NWS
Founding Music Director, Tony Snyder – 1924-2023
Darwin “Tony” Snyder, retired Omaha Westside High School music teacher, founder of Omaha’s community concert band and veteran of World War II’s Battle of the Bulge, has died in St. Louis.
Snyder died Jan. 2 at age 98 of complications following a fall, according to his daughter, Melanie Coon, of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
A native of Marathon, Iowa, Tony served in France and Germany during World War II.
In 2020 Guillermo Lacroix, France’s Midwest consul general, presented Snyder with France’s Legion of Honor, the highest award for those who helped save the French republic. Lacroix said the medal recognizes Snyder’s role in liberating France from Nazi Germany as a sergeant in the U.S. Army’s 14th Armored Division. “The French people will never forget,” Lacroix said. As part of the ceremony, Snyder played the French and United States national anthems on the piano.
A native of Marathon, Iowa, Snyder earned music education degrees from Morningside College in Sioux City and the University of Colorado, as well as a specialist degree in educational administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
He taught music in Hawarden and Harley, Iowa, before joining the Westside Community Schools in 1954. He directed Westside High School’s bands for 21 years and was the district’s fine arts coordinator for 12 years.
Snyder founded the Nebraska Wind Symphony in 1977 as a performing group for adults in the Omaha area. He conducted the band for its first 18 years, including annual performances at the Summer Arts Festival. The band is still active, playing a series of concerts that Snyder originated and at the Holiday Lights Festival and other events in the Omaha area.
Snyder was a piano major in college and played cello in the Sioux City Symphony and saxophone in the Monahan Post Concert Band in Sioux City.
He also conducted festival bands in Iowa and Nebraska, the Omaha Ballet pit ensemble, the Omaha Area Youth Orchestra, the UNO Concert Band and, for 16 years, the Countryside Community Church Choirs. He also guest-directed the Lincoln Municipal Band and the Sioux City Municipal Band.
He and his wife of 74 years, Joan, who died in April 2022, had moved to St. Louis to be close to his son, Mark. At his retirement community, Snyder organized a series of concerts, recruiting performers and often accompanying them on piano. Survivors besides his son and daughter include four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Larry MacTaggart Receives NSBA Distinguished Service Award
The Nebraska State Bandmasters Association (NSBA) awarded the Duane Johnson Distinguished Service Award to NWS Music Director, Larry MacTaggart in March 2019. This award is given by the NSBA Executive Board to individuals who have helped make “Better Bands for Nebraska”. The award is designated in honor and recognition of Duane E. Johnson and the many invaluable contributions he made to bands of Nebraska.
Other 2019 recipients of this award were Tom Jaworski (Retired, Adams Central Public Schools) and Joanie Mathis (Omaha Symphony).