Tom's Donation Story
Tom Jonas is an OAYO alumnus who donated a bass trombone to the orchestra. Read on below to learn about his OAYO experience and why he chose to support OAYO through a donation.
Tom Jonas loves music and learning. "Playing in the Omaha Youth Orchestra was one
of the highlights of my musical life,” Tom tells us. “My parents bought me the bass
trombone I donated to OAYO when I was a sophomore in high school." He started piano
lessons in third grade and began playing trombone in the sixth-grade band. He grew up
in Schuyler, Nebraska, located on the Platte River 65 miles northwest of Omaha.
Marie Uerling was his piano teacher and organist at his parish church, St.
Augustine's. Beginning in the 7th grade she coached him on how to play the pedal
board on the pipe organ and provided him with exercise books. When she became ill
and had to retire in 1968, he took over as organist for the last three years he was in high
"The Schuyler schools had a band but not an orchestra," Tom says, "so my first
experience playing in an orchestra was at the All-State summer program at UNL in
1970."; He loved it and learned about the Omaha Youth Orchestra." I was determined to
audition, so I taught myself to read tenor clef music. I was named principal
trombone. We rehearsed every Saturday morning from 9-11:30 am at UNO."; Kermit
Peters was the music director. Carl Lyon was the strings coach."
"I was lucky to get acquainted with Vernon Forbes, professor of trombone at UNL,
during All State," Tom says. "He was a kind and generous man, coming back to the
studio after supper one night a week to teach me during my senior year of high
school." UNL was a 60-minute drive from Schuyler, but there were teachers who drove
to Lincoln weekly for graduate classes. They let Tom ride with them. They would drop
him off at the student union with his sack lunch and homework and pick him up after
There were two winners of the OAYO concerto competition in 1971, Eric Freid on violin
and Tom on trombone. "I loved modern music and played the last two movements of
George Frederick McKay's ‘Sonata for Trombone and Piano.’ Other pieces on the spring
concert that year included ‘Overture to the Meistersinger’ by Wagner, the ‘Triumphal
March’ from Aida by Verdi, and ‘Adagio for Strings’ by Barber. ‘Night Flight to Madrid’ by
Leslie was the encore. That year we had an exchange with the Kansas City Youth
Orchestra. We travelled there to a play concert one weekend, and they visited Omaha
the following weekend to play for us.”
Tom attended Creighton University, majoring in theology. He was principal trombone in
the Town and Gown Orchestra at UNO for four years before attending graduate school
at The Divinity School, The University of Chicago. He played in the university's brass
society. The brass society funded itself by playing for University and Alumni
events. After that, his trombone playing was sporadic. His music making shifted to
singing in church choirs.
"When I saw OAYO accepted donated instruments I was delighted! My trombone was
gathering dust in my basement, and I wanted to get it into the hands of a young
musician who would put it to good use," Tom says. "I can't imagine a better place for it