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A young man who started taking lessons at age 7 on a donated guitar starts an after-school group at his middle school to introduce others to the instrument.

Three sisters explore their musical talents on piano, guitar and violin, and collaborate to perform during a local worship service.

These are just a couple examples of how the Lincoln Music Teachers Association’s Music Outreach Program has impacted the lives of Lincoln-area youth who would not have been able to pursue private lessons without assistance. MOP, as it’s called, relies on grants and private donations to serve 50 students annually.

Viking Foundation grants support the program

In 2018, LMTA received its second grant, for $5,000, from the Viking Foundation to use toward the program. Forty-four lessons are provided annually for a nominal fee to students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.

LMTA was one of 15 applicants granted between $1,000 and $15,000. The grant to LMTA covered lesson fees for 22 students for one quarter, according to Wanda Mandigo, MOP grant committee chair.

“We like to fund small-budget organizations,” shared Viking Foundation President Steve Eggland. “We feel like we make a greater impact.”

Grant applications are accepted from nonprofit organizations in Lancaster County; Denver County, Colo.; and Polk County, Iowa. The deadline for this year is Oct. 1. For details, see

Viking Foundation grants are designed to impact individuals (especially children) and families challenged with education, poverty, housing, gender, mental and physical health issues.

”We are quite supportive of music as recreation and a self-confidence builder, and we are impressed with how they’ve (LMTA) leveraged the funds we’ve granted them,” Eggland said.

About the MOP

When MOP began 21 years ago, it had a different name and sought teachers to volunteer their time teaching private lessons. In 2008, the program got its current name and a formal manual that states all teachers will be paid.

Candidates are nominated primarily by teachers or counselors, must have parental/guardian support and regular attendance, and have no other means to pay for lessons (financial need documentation). Student Selene Izaguirre remembers finding the application on her music stand after her fifth-grade music teacher told her to check it out.

Jo Riecker-Karl, one of the original founders and current chair of the program, picked up Izaguirre as a piano student when she decided to try a second instrument after taking violin lessons from Aleta Collier for about four years. “Those private lessons really helped me, because I became the concert master in eighth grade,” Izaguirre shared.

Now a senior at Lincoln East, Izaguirre continues to study piano with Riecker-Karl and to play violin in orchestra. She will add voice lessons with Riecker-Karl this school year, thanks to a supplemental MOP scholarship designed to cover the cost of additional study.

As students excel, teachers can enter them in festivals, and the MOP program will help pay entrance fees, Wandigo explained. Adding to the program’s success is support from local companies like Chet’s Moving and Storage, Dietze Music House, CGSmusic, Capital City Strings, The Violin Shop, and piano tuners and technicians. Free pianos and free or reduced-price piano tuning and instrument repairs are built into the program.

Serving students in preschool through high school

Currently, students in preschool through high school who are musically talented and interested in studying piano, violin, viola, guitar, flute and voice are enrolled. Two of Selene’s younger sisters also take lessons.

“Selene is the model student,” Riecker-Karl shared. “She is dedicated, brilliant, and she’s very nurturing.” Izaguierre has volunteered at the last two LMTA festivals (held in the spring and fall), and she and her sisters played for a whole service at Riecker-Karl’s church this summer.

MOP teachers are required to give their students at least two opportunities to perform annually, but Riecker-Karl’s Young Lincoln Performers group does between six and seven public performances, making the rounds between hospitals and nursing homes.

“I like to give them opportunities where they do self-discovery and performance,” she explained.

For Izaguirre, a performance at Madonna Rehabilitation was her first in front of a group. She said it helped her face her fear and get up the courage to try out for show choir at Lincoln East.

Without MOP, Izaguierre said she and her sisters would have had to get jobs to pay for lessons.

“We’re so lucky to have it,” she said. A tuner comes to Izaguierre’s home to keep her piano on key, and all of her instructional books have been provided free of charge.

Riecker-Karl has been a great teacher, she added. “The thing I most appreciate about her is her patience. She understands it takes me a while to learn techniques ... She’s just accepting.”


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