Good things just keep happening to young saxophonist Cole Palensky.

Well, actually, they don’t just happen. His persistent hard work has something to do with it.

You might remember Cole from a story I wrote last summer. As a Papillion-La Vista South High School junior, he was one of only 22 teens from across the country selected for NYO Jazz, a program for promising young instrumentalists. He spent a month in New York City studying with master musicians, played Carnegie Hall and toured Europe for two weeks with other NYO Jazz band participants, as well as acclaimed trumpeter Sean Jones and Grammy-winning singer Dianne Reeves.

He’s going back this summer, proud dad John Palensky told me in an email. This time, the group will tour southeast Asia after the intense workshops and another Carnegie Hall appearance in New York. Professionals working with the program this year include Jones and singer Kurt Elling.

Cole also recently was selected for YoungArts, founded to nurture the most accomplished young artists in the country. He traveled to Los Angeles in March to perform as part of the YoungArts program.

And, as a graduating senior, he’s making that all-important college decision. He’s done with auditions and has five offers, three for full tuition: Berklee School of Music in Boston, and The New School and New York University in New York City. Pretty big names. He’s also on a waitlist at Juilliard.

That means he’s accomplished a major goal: getting a great offer to a school in NYC, where jazz is everywhere. That’s the musical genre of his heart. John Palensky said his son probably will choose one of the New York schools, though he’s still evaluating which one. He has to decide by May 1.

In Omaha, he recently played for singer Susie Thorne at The Jewell, the new jazz club in the Capitol District. Very cool.

That’s a lot of attention, but it appears that it hasn’t gone to his head. A framed copy of his World-Herald story has been hanging in the Papillion-La Vista South office for several months, at least, but his parents knew nothing about it.

“Cole never told us,” Dad said. “We (recently) saw it one day when we were at the school.”

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This complete guide of local music, movies, dining and entertainment will have you weekend ready.

New theater seasons

Playing catch-up with a couple of area theaters that have finalized lineups for next season:


Sept. 13-29: “G2L Once Upon a Mattress,” a musical based on “The Princess and the Pea” by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.

November TBD: “Farewell 830,” remembering the 67 years the theater has been at 830 Franklin Ave. in the hills of Council Bluffs. It will move to the new Hoff Family Arts and Culture Center in downtown CB early next year.

March 20-29, 2020: “The Music Man,” a classic musical about a flimflam man in a small Iowa city at the turn of the 20th century, by Iowa native Meredith Willson.

May 29-June 7, 2020: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” a musical retelling of the Old Testament story by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Bellevue Little Theatre

Sept. 13-29: “Catch Me If you Can,” based on the 2003 film of Frank Abagnale Jr.’s biography about his various “occupations.”

Nov. 8-14: “Our Town,” the Thornton Wilder classic play about ordinary citizens in Grover’s Corner.

Jan. 17-Feb. 2, 2020: “Murder on the Orient Express,” a Ken Ludwig adaptation of a detective Hercule Poirot story by Agatha Christie.

March 13-29, 2020: “Big,” a musical based on the 1988 Tom Hanks movie.

May 1-17, 2020: “Temporary Insanity,” a farce by Karen Schaeffer, who lives in Des Moines and may be on hand during the production.

New digs for UNO music

An addition to the Strauss Performing Arts Center on the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus is finished, and it’s time to celebrate.

UNO dignitaries and others will gather at the building for tours and dinner Thursday night. A concert celebrating the opening of the building will follow at 7:30 p.m., featuring the Heartland Philharmonic Orchestra and the Omaha Symphony.

The Omaha Symphony has been a local icon for more than 90 years under several directors. The current music director is Thomas Wilkins. The 70-member Heartland Philharmonic Orchestra is made up of both students and members of the community. It presents at least two concerts a year, with a repertoire than spans from the Baroque era to the present.

Tickets for the concert only are available to the public through or 402-345-0606. They’re $15 for general admission, $8 for students, seniors and military personnel, and free for UNO students and faculty who show their MavCards at the door.