Interview with The New Philharmonic

...the art that we bring to Omaha is art that is singularly unique just as the city itself, and above all, art that embodies our shared cardinal goals for society and for art: community and inclusivity.
"B is for BIKES!" a public performance piece happening at Benson First Friday, October 7th, 6:00

"B is for BIKES!" a public performance piece happening at Benson First Friday, October 7th, 6:00

Winners of our Omaha Gives! Back Grant, Paige Reitz and Vimbayi Kaziboni, are using the funds to bring an iconic work by composer Mauricio Kagel to Omaha for its Midwest Premiere. It involves 111 bicyclists and you don't want to miss it.

Reitz and Kaziboni are old friends, and together founded The New Philharmonic, an artist collective grounded in a convergence of mediums and a mission to bring artful experiences to the Omaha Community. "B is for BIKES!" is part of a 26-year project spanning the alphabet, set to culminate in a "Z is for _______" exhibit in 2041. 

These guys have some big britches, and we're thrilled to be a supporter of this project! Read on to learn more about what drives their art and how they relate it to the Omaha Community >>

Why did you create The New Philharmonic?

We started The New Philharmonic as a gathering place for all the ideas and dreams we have about art in Omaha. With Vimbayi’s world being very much so immersed in contemporary classical music and Paige’s in the visual arts, we saw a gap in both our city’s discourse among creatives coming from differing backgrounds and in the presentation of contemporary classical. The New Philharmonic is a place for these conversations to start and collaborations to stir.

What inspired your 26-year alphabet progressing project, now in its 2nd year?

One thing the two of us have always had in common is our penchant for the absurd. ‘A is for ____.’ started as a singular ambitious undertaking with The New Philharmonic and a collaborator of ours John Stulz; when the program came together and it made sense to have the title be what it was we thought, “Wouldn’t it be ridiculous to commit to 26 years of programming in our first year?” And so, we committed. Each year a new letter. Each year a new creative problem to solve and a reason to continue The New Philharmonic’s efforts in Omaha.

How did you meet, and how do you work together?

We met in high school through a motley crew of artistically inclined friends fighting the doldrums of suburbia out in Millard. In retrospect, it makes sense that our upbringing in West Omaha fed our understanding of how to take wide open space and time and turn it into fodder for creative exploration. The two of us didn’t start collaborating until after undergrad when we both found ourselves back in Omaha from the west coast. We spent a summer writing songs and playing in a short-lived band with our dear friend and incredibly talented musician James Maakestad. All our songs were about heartbreaks and home. We played one show and we promise, you can’t find anything about us on the Internet. During that time, we had a lot of freedom and free time and spent hours upon hours talking about art, music, and dreams we had for Omaha. That’s really when The New Philharmonic started and we’ve been collaborating on events and projects ever since. Vimbayi brings his deep knowledge of contemporary classical music to the collaboration and Paige has a knack for organizing and visually pulling together unique artistic experiences. We also work a lot with our good friend Aaron Markley who is deeply connected to musicians in Omaha.

What do you love about “Eine Brise (A Breeze): A Fleeting Action for 111 Bicyclists” and why are you bringing it to Omaha?

P: For me, Eine Brise contemplates a concept that I am very curious about in my own work which is the idea of communitas and whether or not we can use artistic means to create secular but sacred events that denote feelings of togetherness. Anthropologists and positive psychology researchers have discovered that when humans engage in expressive rituals together, en masse, that positive mental and physical benefits arise in the participants. I’m always chasing that thought with my work. When Vimbayi introduced me to this piece, I loved how it merged the practice of biking and soundmaking in unison with political commentary on bike culture and acceptance in Omaha.

V: Our experience of Omaha is that of a place who's central virtue is defined by the communal confluence of it's people.  We view our city as a place defined by community. This is the primary force that inspires us and brings us together not just as collaborators but also as friends. In thinking about our city's strengths and artistic needs we find it fitting that the art that we bring to Omaha is art that is singularly unique just as the city itself, and above all, art that embodies our shared cardinal goals for society and for art: community and inclusivity. The essence of Kagel's "Eine Brise" is exactly that - art as community - beauty in togetherness. 111 bicyclists from all parts of town come together to create one voice, an array of pleasing sounds and pleasing sights. For a fleeting moment they stand for something - together. In the next moment it's all gone. All but memories and friendships. This is the spirit that the collective of The New Philharmonic stands for - art as community, art as politic, art as revolution.

Why should people go see “B is for BIKES!”?

We are most excited for people on the street who didn’t come to view the performance, who just happen to be in Benson that night, to stand witness to the event. It’s arguable that coming just to see the accidental audience’s reaction would be worth the trip.

- anna nance

"B is for BIKES!" Friday, October 7th 6:00
Benson First Friday, Maple Street between 61st & 63rd st.

"B is for BIKES! Preview" Friday, September 16th 5:00-7:00
Omaha Design Center, 1502 Cuming St.