Pictures from an Exhibition: Activities for the Car

Explore the activities below with your child(ren) before arriving at Symphony Center–they’re perfect for your car or train ride downtown!

LISTEN before the concert, using our Spotify playlist. Access the playlist below or at this link. You can listen to the tracks freely, or you can explore the activities below for an enhanced listening experience.

*Note that a free account is required to use Spotify.


Your child will see many different instrument families at the concert today. Show him or her these pictures of each instrument family before you arrive. After finding your seats at the concert, ask your child if he or she can identify any of the instrument families!


Thomas Wilkins

  • Thomas Wilkins is music director of the Omaha Symphony; a position he has held since 2005.
  • He is also principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.
  • He is devoted to promoting a life-long enthusiasm for music.
  • During his conducting career, he has led orchestras throughout the United States, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago.
  • Raised in Norfolk, VA, Thomas Wilkins is a graduate of the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.
  • He lives with his wife Sheri-Lee in Omaha. They are the proud parents of twin daughters, Erica and Nicole.


Viktor Hartmann

  • Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Hartmann was orphaned as a young child and was raised by his uncle, who himself was a well-known architect.
  • Hartmann went on to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg. His first job was as a book illustrator. Hartmann also worked as an architect and sketched for various things, such as an opera.
  • Hartmann was a close friend of Modest Mussorgsky, and they shared a commitment to Russian culture.
  • Following Hartmann’s early death at age 39, an exhibition of over 400 of his paintings were displayed in the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, in February and March 1874. This exhibition inspired Mussorgsky to compose his suite Pictures at an Exhibition. Most of the works shown at the 1874 exhibition are now lost.

Modest Mussorgsky

  • Born in Russia to a wealthy family of nobility, Modest Mussorgsky began piano lessons with his mother when he was 6 years old. When he was 12 years old, his father paid to publish a piano piece he had composed.
  • Inspired by Russian history and folklore, he believed that the arts were a means for conversing with people.
  • During Mussorgsky’s lifetime, his music was mostly unknown and following his death at 42 his works were often published as versions revised or finished by other composers.
  • When he was 34, Mussorgsky composed Pictures at an Exhibition. His working title was “Hartmann,” as he wrote the piano piece as a tribute to his friend Viktor Hartmann after attending a posthumous exhibition of his artwork. Much of Hartmann’s art reflected his observations of people and places he visited as he travelled throughout Europe and to that, Mussorgsky added his own observations composing a graphic suite of ethos and emotions. He completed the piece in only three weeks and intended to have it published immediately, but his composer contemporaries considered the piece musically radical so he decided against it.
  • When he died in 1881 it was not yet published and few people outside of Russia had ever heard it. Many arrangements for orchestra have followed but Maurice Ravel’s orchestration published in 1922 is the most widely performed version.

Maurice Ravel

  • Born in France into a musical family, Ravel’s musical talent became apparent at an early age.
  • He attended the Paris Conservatoire at age 14 and nearly all of his compositions, even from the very first, showed perfection in artistry.
  • The thought of orchestrating Pictures evidently never occurred to Mussorgsky, but it has intrigued musicians ever since his death, and over the years, several have tried their hand at turning Mussorgsky’s black-and-white pieces into full color.
  • Maurice Ravel was no exception as his compositions often began as works for piano that he then transcribed for orchestra. His use of tone colors and inventiveness in scoring while staying true to the original composition have made his orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition the one most widely performed by orchestras today.