The Redwoods on the Green

Millard West senior Hunter Neumayer’s jazz band made an appearance at The Omaha Performing Art’s Jazz on the Green this August.


“I just had my eyes closed a lot more,” Neumayer (right) said, as he played with his band in front of thousands of listeners at Midtown Crossings.

As the sun set on the skyline of downtown Omaha, the sound of lively jazz music filled Turner Park and the ears of over 5,000 people. Young and old listeners alike swayed along to the sound of smooth saxophone melodies on an uncharacteristically cool August evening. Spectators witnessed an array of wonderful performers take the stage throughout the night, including the band of Millard West senior Hunter Neumayer.

Elkhorn Days, Benson Days, Charlies on the Lake, In the Market for Blues, Plains on Fire and now Jazz on the Green. The list of venues and performances only grows for this jazz and blues band.

The group of seven young artists, including four Millard West students, has been together since the summer of 2016. Alumni students Madeline Reddel and Sam McDermott, in addition to current Wildcats Mike McDermott and Hunter Neumayer, form a truly unique ensemble with other musically inclined teens across Omaha.

The classic garage-band-esque group met through a program known as BluesEd and got its name in the most appropriate way.

“I actually live on Redwood Street,” Neumayer said, “right where we started practicing.”

Despite the fact that the band has only been together for around a year, Neumayer is accustomed to the stage. He has been involved in music for as long as he can remember, but became fascinated with jazz after making the top band in middle school. Years of lessons and new ensembles later, Neumayer was hooked.

After playing around 25 gigs this summer alone, the performance at Midtown Crossings was nerve-wracking, yet notable. On average, the Redwoods play for crowds of about 60 people. Jazz on the Green was an extreme, with around 5,000 music-lovers filling the park. The Omaha Performing Arts sponsored event was certainly a new experience for the group, but nothing that the talented musicians couldn’t handle.

“I just had my eyes closed a lot more,” Neumayer said. “I was nervous for some reason, but no one else in the band was. They kept making fun of me.”

With all anxiousness aside, the performance was executed flawlessly and met with thunderous applause and approval from the crowd. Midtown Crossings, in accompaniment with food trucks, beautiful weather, and incredible jazz music, supplied the perfect atmosphere for the perfect gig.

“We were all super hyped for Jazz on the Green because we knew we’d have a huge crowd that would be fun to interact with and would come dance, which is always better than playing to people who are uninterested or sitting down,” Neumayer said.

The amphitheater-style arena of viewers fell nothing short of the band’s expectations, providing ample energy to feed off of throughout the night and creating an exciting, dynamic environment for all.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. As the band divides due to the graduation of several of its members, Neumayer reminisces on all the fond memories the group has created.

“I’ll miss playing with those guys the most. Because they were special,” Neumayer said.

Despite being divided across several different high schools and universities in the upcoming year, for the Redwoods, this monumental performance was hardly a goodbye. In February of 2018, the band will travel to Memphis to compete in the International Blues Competition. Reconvening for one final performance along the famous Beale Street will bring an unmatched sense of accomplishment and closure for the group.

But for Neumayer, the journey doesn’t stop on Beale Street. He will continue to be involved with  music through various high school and eventually college ensembles, and is even considering starting a jazz or funk band of his own.

For this talented young artist, the Redwoods and gigs like Jazz on the Green are only the beginning.