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Omaha teen in awe after taking the stage at New York’s Carnegie Hall

Billie Eilish fans have something to look forward to, as the singer has revealed that she and her constant collaborator, her brother Finneas, are currently working on new music.

A 16-year-old Omaha singer recently got an honor most musicians can only imagine.

She performed a solo onstage at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Riya Kumar, a junior at Marian High School, entered and won the American Protege International Music Competition, an online music contest.

She participated in the pop music category, recording three songs on video and submitting them to judges. The prize was a chance to sing in the famed 131-year-old midtown Manhattan concert hall.

She went to New York last month with her mom, sister and voice teacher Anne Marie Kenny of Omaha. Riya’s parents are Ramar and Saravana Kumar.

Riya said she was in awe when she stepped out on the stage.

“It was just so special,” she said. “The beauty of it was just breathtaking — (as was) being able to be a part of the history of Carnegie Hall and its history in New York City and the world. I had never performed in a hall with those amazing acoustics before.”

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She sang “If I Ain’t Got You,” a song by Grammy Award-winning star Alicia Keys, one of the three she submitted to the competition.

“I was honored to have the privilege to sing that particular song. I worked with it so long,” she said. “At the concert I connected with it on a deeper level.”

Before the Carnegie appearance, she said, her biggest concerts have been as a vocalist with a blues band, The Redwoods, at various Omaha venues such as Taste of Omaha and Rathskeller BierHaus. The events were part of the BluesEd youth artist development program.

She said she will continue to enter contests from the state to the international levels. Comparing herself with other young musicians helps her grow, she said.

Riya has studied several musical genres. Classical music and musical theater are the base of her education, she said, and she uses that training in everything she sings.

Her favorite genre is pop and her role models are Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and similar stars.

She credits Kenny for helping her get to this point.

“She is just the most incredible person to work with,” Riya said. “I am thankful for having a mentor like her in my life.”

Playhouse snags ‘Beautiful’

“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” is coming to the Omaha Community Playhouse next September.

The 98-year-old Omaha icon will be among the first community theaters in the country to produce the Tony Award-winning show. It will be the first production on the Hawks Mainstage for the theater’s 99th season, which runs from fall 2023 to spring 2024.

The musical tells the true story of the legendary singer-songwriter, including her rise to fame and the impact her work has had on the music industry. King faced strife and heartache on her way to stardom, but they didn’t keep her from creating some of the most beloved pop songs ever written, including “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “One Fine Day” and “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman.”

“It will be such a joy to see audiences singing, dancing and clapping along to some of Carole King’s greatest hits,” Playhouse Artistic Director Stephan Santa said. “I can’t think of a better way to kick off our Mainstage offerings for season 99.”

Auditions for the show, open to the entire community, will be next summer. Playhouse leaders will announce the rest of the coming season in March 2023, when season subscriptions — including tickets for “Beautiful” — will become available.

‘Godspell’ coming to Benson

The 2023 Omaha Series for Rave On Productions will open with the musical “Godspell.”

The classic from three-time Grammy and Academy Award winner Stephen Schwartz, who also wrote “Wicked” and “Pippin,” will premiere Feb. 10, 2023, at the Benson Theatre, 6054 Maple St.

It’s a modern retelling of the Gospel of Matthew through song, including hits such as “Day by Day,” “By My Side” and “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.” The musical was made into a 1973 movie starring Victor Garber as Jesus.

Billy McGuigan will play Jesus in the Rave On production, while Jonathan Berger will be Judas and John the Baptist. The cast will also include a youth ensemble from the McGuigan Arts Academy.

McGuigan is also the music director, and the stage director is Kimberly Faith Hickman.

Tickets start at $35 at

Mixed Chorus holiday concert

“Wrapped in Rainbow,” this year’s River City Mixed Chorus holiday concert, will be Saturday night at the Holland Center, 1200 Douglas St.

It will feature more than 120 singers and instrumentalists performing classic tunes such as “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and new favorites such as “At This Table,” written and recorded by Broadway star Idina Menzel, and “Underneath the Christmas Tree,” made popular by singer and talk show host Kelly Clarkson.

Santa Claus will pose for photos with patrons before and after the concert.

The show, at 7:05 p.m., is for the entire family. Tickets start at $25 and are available at or 402-345-0606.

The group is a member of GALA Choruses, a support and advocacy group for LGBTQ+ ensembles.

UNL Winter Art Sale

Holiday shopping can take a creative turn at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Winter Art Sale.

Students in the School of Art, Art History and Design are selling their work on Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Richards Hall on the UNL main campus.

Participants in the show include art students in the Clay Club, whose pieces will represent a broad range of aesthetics, techniques and concepts. Their show will be in Room 118.

A separate sale, in Room 110, will feature work from students in photography, printmaking and painting. Prints, shirts, totes, fiber arts and more will be available.

The sales are open to the public. Richards Hall is at Stadium Drive and T Street. The public can park at metered stalls just north of the hall or in the Stadium Drive garage.

For more information on the sales, call the school at 402-472-5522., 402-444-1267

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