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The last question for Kristin Chenoweth on Thursday afternoon from the group of students who performed with her at the Lied Center for Performing Arts later that night made her cry.

Because it wasn’t a question, it was a thank you.

“I performed with you two years ago in Omaha,” said Karen Richards, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln junior from West Point. “I came back to school, changed my major and I’m very thankful for your words of wisdom, because you actually changed my life.”

Chenoweth said Richards’ words would stay with her — because she never gets to hear what happens with the students she meets.

Richards said she was a freshman majoring in music education at UNL two years ago when she was among a group of students chosen to perform with Chenoweth in Omaha. During a short conversation with students before the performance, the star encouraged them to stick with performing if that’s what made them happy. She talked about how she’d always known what she wanted to do, despite hitting rough patches and having people try to dissuade her.

Richards had faced similar challenges and she took the star’s words to heart. After the performance, she told her mom she wanted to change her major from music education to theater performance, with a minor in music theater. She’s never regretted the decision, she told Chenoweth on Thursday. She recently got her first professional contract.

“I keep getting reminded I made the right choice,” she said. “I’m so much happier now. I’ve chosen the right path.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or

On Twitter @LJSreist.


Education reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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