The night of July fourth, the skyline was filled with bright lights as a low rumble could be heard in the distance. Large firework shows as well as small residential fireworks lit up the night sky. In preparation for the evening, many people spent the day doing last minute shopping for cookouts and entertainment. Danny Sabra however, stopped by the 402 Arts Collective for a short interview. He walked through the doors and sat down in one of the green chairs eager to share a little bit about himself.
Danny is currently one of sixteen Artist Instructors at the 402 Arts Collective. He has been apart of the 402 for about a year now and he is currently teaching guitar, viola, violin, fiddle, harmonica, mandolin, music theory and music composition. It would be an understatement to say that Danny is well versed in string instruments category but he would say otherwise. Humble in nature, Danny opens up about his childhood and the struggles he faces with being a professional musician.
“I have lived in the Dundee area for most of my life. I love that side of town. It is beautiful and centrally located. The main drag, Underwood, used to be completely forested but recently they cut all the trees down and put in new sidewalks,” said Danny with a slight disappointed look on his face. “Dundee used to look old and well established and now it looks like everything else. You can see little graffiti trees painted on the sidewalk in protest,” he chuckled. “I guess if they don’t hurry up and replant some trees they’ll have to change the street name to just Under.”
Danny Sabra grew up in the area as an only child. His parents have always had a huge influence over his musical career. “My mom is a piano teacher. When I was four or five-years-old we would ‘write music’ together. I would scribble on a piece of paper then hand it to her. She would then take it and play something on the piano and tell me that I wrote it. Honestly that really encouraged me to try out music at a young age.” Although he regrets not learning piano, Danny describes his parents have watched him learn violin, harmonica, guitar, and other folk instruments.
As a young homeschooler, Danny had the opportunity to really devote a lot of his time to learning the in’s and out’s of music. “I started taking violin lessons at age twelve which is remarkably late for most. Some parents start their kids out at age three or four. I took lessons from Mr. Lyon for about 7-years. In classical music, specifically in the string community, there is the old school style and the new school style. He was one of the last people to partake in the old school style.” Danny believes the main focus of the old teaching style is based on the idea to prepare the student for the reality of the music world. Danny learned how to receive constructive criticism and he tells the 402 that he grew a lot during those seven years. “When I started college at the University of Nebraska Omaha however, my professors were completely different.”
Suddenly Danny had found himself thrown into a work environment that was focused on encouragement. “This made me feel really weird at first,” describes Danny. Studying violin performance and music composition, Danny experienced that dog eat dog world environment at music school. Due to this environment, he began to develop an obsession for success. From that desire he began to experience an extreme form of performance anxiety. “It never mattered how prepared I was for a performance, I always struggled. I would have memory lapses, my technique would fall apart, my hands would shake and I had the feeling that I was having a heart attack.” As Danny wrapped up his college years, he suddenly realized he tied this desire for success to the value of his person.
“I was so focused on being loved by all. I also wanted everyone to like my music. It crushed me in the end. I am still learning. To this day I worry about what people think about my performances. I always have to remind myself that music is a gift that is meant to be shared.”
As a music instructor, Danny sees this germ attack some of his students. Many students develop a fear of failure before they have even learned fundamental skills.
“It doesn’t matter how good you are or how invested you are in music, life is bigger than music.”
Although that seems like a simple idea, it is easy to get lost in the desire or need to be successful.
Danny has been teaching since he was in high school. He tells the 402 that teaching just kind of fell into his lap. “I started when I was in high school. We were at the music store and we saw a friend from the homeschool group and she said, ‘Will you teach my son how to play harmonica?’ I told her that I would. So this little kid started coming to my house and we would sit at the dinner table for half an hour and practice. That was my first student,” describes Danny. He tells the 402 that he had attended a guitar class around this time as well. “The teacher suddenly quit the class. She recommended me to be the teacher before she left. So I started teaching a bunch of my homeschool buddies how to play guitar.”
Sabra participated in the Omaha Area Youth Orchestra (OAYO) as a youth. He later taught at OAYO. He currently teaches at several places around Omaha including University of Nebraska Omaha as an adjunct professor as well as the 402. “I have learned a lot from teaching,” says Danny. Danny is not only an experienced composer and talented artist, he is also a fantastic teacher.
Sabra believes that no matter if you are an amateur or a professional artist, you are never to great to learn. He tells his students the quote,
“The day that you feel like you have arrived is the same day you have stopped being an artist.”