Poems selected for 22/23 Poetry & Music Project

Opera Omaha is thrilled to announce the selection of 15 poems for the 2022-23 Poetry & Music Project. These original poems, written by Nebraska students grades 3 through 12, were selected from a pool of 135 submissions from 117 poets across 14 Nebraska counties.

22/23 selected poems:

“Un Corps” by Addison Bryant, Anselmo-Merna Public School
“I want my voice to be…” by Theodore Bullis, Castle Hill Academy
“Capturing the essence of your voice” by Maggie Dendinger, Cedar Catholic High School
“Not all of us live the same” by Claire Gunn, Gretna Middle School
“You Are Beautiful” by Emma Kaiser, Portal Elementary
“I’ll Grow” by Aarya Khobare, Millard North Middle School
“Voice Emotions” by Makayla Klinefelter, St. John the Baptist School
“I am not Alone” by Lucie Lautenschlager, Palmer Public School
“Untitled” by MaKenna Love, Norfolk Catholic
“Burning Stars” by Athiei Majuec, Logan Fontenelle Middle School
“Joy” by Ava Noecker, Cedar Catholic High School
“Universe’s End” by Kylie Remm, Douglas West High School
“Sweet Little Lullabies” by Meyiah Sanchez, Omaha Street School
“The Land I Call Home” by Ava Stewart, Cedar Catholic High School
“Love, Heart, Kind” by Kim Valquier, Hayward School

These poems were selected and will be set to music by professional composers Gabrielle Herbst and J.E. Hernández. This spring, poets will further develop their pieces in music workshops with the composers by collaborating in the behind-the-scenes artistic process.

Poetry & Music Project Concert

The original works will be performed by a Opera Omaha artists and students from University of Nebraska – Omaha School of Music, premiering at a free live concert on May 7 at the Benson Theatre. The concert will also be livestreamed.


Poetry Book

Students were asked to write in connection to the theme for this year’s project, “Finding Your Voice.” Within this larger idea were sub-themes: Joy, Transformation, Creativity, Empathy, and Overcoming Obstacles. All 135 submitted poems will be included in the Poetry & Music Project book which will be distributed to all poets, teachers, concert audience, and available online in May. The Poetry & Music Project book is also part of Omaha Public Library’s Zine collection.

View last year's Book

About the Composers

Gabrielle Herbst

Gabrielle Herbst is a composer, vocalist and educator. She’s received commissions from Roulette and the Jerome Foundation, the Nouveau Classical Project, Duo Noir, Experiments in Opera, Fresh Squeezed Opera, The Knights, and contributed to the opera Magdalene as part the Prototype Festival 2020 in NYC. She’s been composer-in-residence at the Watermill Center, Exploring the Metropolis, Inc., Atlantic Center for the Arts, Avaloch Farms, Roulette and Pioneer Works. She has had her compositions presented at venues including National Sawdust, The Stone, Issue Project Room, HERE Arts Center, the National Guitar Society, MATA, and Lincoln Center Atrium. Under the moniker GABI she released her debut album Sympathy on Software Recording Co. in 2015. Tour highlights included David Byrne’s Meltdown Festival, London, Pop Kultur Festival, Berlin, Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam, The Great Escape, Brighton, UK, Marfa Myths Festival, TX, The Wick presented by Pitchfork, and a series at Roulette with Missy Mazzoli curated by Meredith Monk. She released her second GABI album, Empty Me, on Double Double Whammy in 2018 and toured the US opening for the band Mutual Benefit. She is a current fellow with the American Opera Project’s Composers & the Voice program. She graduated from Bard College where she studied composition with Joan Tower, and the Yale School of Music where she studied with Martin Bresnick, Aaron Jay Kernis, and David Lang.

J.E. Hernández

Composer and cinematographer J.E. Hernández (b.1993) is a Mexican-born, Houston-based composer focusing on elevating personal and cultural narrative through his work. J.E.’s music has been featured by distinguished ensembles and organizations such as the Kennedy Center for the Arts, Houston Grand Opera, American Opera Project, Performing Arts Houston, Apollo Chamber Players, Foundation for Modern Music, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, American Composers Forum, the Brazil National Orchestra, and in a wide variety of films, both in the United States and abroad.
He holds a degree from the University of Houston. Past teachers include Marcus Maroney and Gregory Spears. J.E.’s work focuses on both traditional and multi-disciplinary mediums, and he has collaborated with directors, choreographers, and playwrights. His process cultivates creativity through stewarding tangible life experiences through an intensive, multinarrative process that is mathematical, philosophical, and historical; these include environmental displacement, anthropologic self-assessments, and non-artistic life narratives. Recent and upcoming projects include helah, a chamber work focusing on the transformative aspect of generational historicity and trauma, commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera; Voces Fantasmas, a multi-disciplinary work dedicated to people in immigrant facilities, excerpts of which were featured by the Kennedy Center for the Arts; Desert Shelter, commissioned by Performing Arts Houston, a work for string sextet and dance which deals with the bodily decay that migrants experience when crossing the Sonoran desert, premiering at the Wortham Theater in 2023; a McKnight Visiting Composer Residency with American Composers Forum; and a fellowship with American Opera Project’s Composers & the Voice program, where he will workshop a wide variety of operatic works with world class singers, culminating in a premiere.

Poetry & Music Project composers Gabrielle Herbst and J.E. Hernández are alumni of The American Opera Project’s Composers & the Voice opera writing fellowship program.

Project Timeline

September 2022 - Submissions Open
October & November 2022 - Writing Workshops
November 2022 - Submission Deadline
December 2022- Composers Select Poems
January 2023 - Poets of Selected Pieces Notified, Composers Writing Time
March 2023- Music Workshop with Composers and Poets of the Selected Pieces
April 2023- Composers Submit Final Pieces
May 2023- Poetry & Music Project Concert Performance

Project Partners

Producing Partner

Additional project partners

Supported in part by

Past Years


For More Information
Contact: Lauren Medici | Opera Omaha Director of Engagement Programs
Lmedici@operaomaha.org | 402-346-7372