Necessity really is the mother of invention

Small Orchestra – Big Impact

Necessity really is the mother of invention. Just ask Cheryl Christner, Managing Director of Simply Strings in McCook. When the Christner’s moved to McCook there was no strings program there at that time. Through playing as a family at local nursing homes and assisted living facilities, as well as civic events, it was discovered that there had been a strings program in McCook at one time. People started coming out of the woodwork who too, wanted to play. All ages came together as ‘Simply Strings’ which is a multi-generational group, from seniors to very young ones.

The group gave their first concert in 2015, and about 200 audience members attended. Without the financial help of a minigrant through the Nebraska Arts Council, it would be difficult to make ends meet. Each concert is getting more involved, sometimes bringing in outside artists to play with them. It has become a mainstay in the community, and it is not unusual for people to approach Cheryl all over town after concerts to say how much they loved it. 

Their recent concert, titled Journey, featured music from other countries as well as slides in the background of art that depicted each country being represented.  “My heart has always been for people to experience something,” Cheryl said. “It’s not just about playing a bunch of fast notes, and while it may not have been the most difficult pieces, the songs and accompanying pictures took people to that place.” 

Simply Strings has grown to a group of 32 players who perform one big concert each year in the Fall.  Cheryl attributes its success to the fact that it has filled a niche that McCook didn’t have. “The world is glutted with electronics,” Cheryl said, “We didn’t want to see these old instruments die.”   

Simply Strings hasn’t just become a mainstay for the community, it’s an important connection for the musicians as well. One orchestra member commented that this was the first group she had been involved with that made her feel like she really belonged. This is no small feat for a relatively small program that touches the lives of many in and around McCook.  

Your donations to the Nebraska Cultural Endowment help make grants available to groups like Simply Strings so they can keep on making beautiful music and big impacts on their communities. 

Role Models in the Philanthropy

Donor pledges legacy gift to honor parents who paved the way.

“I was blessed to grow up in a household with philanthropic parents as role models, said Melissa Marvin, Chief Service Officer at the Bank of Bennington.  

“One of the consistent messages they taught my brother and me, was that of ‘hand to man, heart to God’.” 

Sam and Sharon Marvin’s giving, leadership and hard work in the community provided that living example of what it means to give back.  Whether it was serving on various boards, or leading initiatives, they were incredible role models.   

 “We had an opportunity to experience what it meant to give back by watching them volunteer in education, human services and arts and humanities organizations,” said Melissa. “They also ensured we were exposed to and participated in practically everything Omaha had to offer.” 

 From an early age, her parents exposed her to the arts and humanities, even enrolling her in a preschool program at Joslyn Art Museum.  

 One of Melissa’s first memories of volunteering was helping her parents at an Omaha Symphony fundraising event. “Imagine an 8-year old at a gala checking coats or helping with the elevator. I love getting all dressed up and being with adults. It was my first exposure to seeing what fundraising was all about.”  

 In high school and college, she continued to volunteer and when she became a professional, she joined numerous fundraising guilds, chaired fundraising galas and served on governing and advisory boards for arts and humanities nonprofits such as Joselyn, Humanities Nebraska, Nebraska Shakespeare, Nebraska Arts Council and Lauritzen Gardens.   

Most recently, she is combining her interests in arts and human services by serving on the Buffett Cancer Center Healing Arts Advisory Board.  The Healing Arts mission is to help provide an innovative approach to art and healing that changes lives.   

 Like her parents, Melissa inspires philanthropy around her. From leading teams of volunteers planning fundraising galas to convincing her friends to serve on nonprofit boards, Melissa is a virtual “pied piper” of leadership volunteering in Omaha’s arts organizations. 

 Melissa has served on the Nebraska Cultural Endowment board for 13 years. “My desire is to always serve the NCE,” she said. “They do such important work funding and supporting arts and humanities throughout the state.” 

 I chose to become a Legacy Donor to Nebraska Cultural Endowment because of the capability to go to a single source to benefit arts and humanities organizations across the state,” she said. 

 I may not be able to write the really big checks right now,” she explained, but I know eventually I can do something that makes a significant impact in perpetuity. 

 Melissa’s father, Sam, passed away 22 years ago. Her mother Sharon continues to support the arts and humanities for future generations. “I set up my legacy gift in honor of my parents not only for all they accomplished but in honor of their legacy I try to live daily,” she said. “They were just really great role models.” 

 Like Melissa, you too can honor a loved one who believes in the value of the arts and humanities with a gift to the Nebraska Cultural Endowment. Learn more by contacting Kyle at 402-595-2722 or 


Melissa and Parents, Sam and Sharon Marvin