Nebraska Medical Orchestra offers melodic ‘thank you’

It’s a seemingly simple melody, with light notes and a graceful cadence.

But at just under two minutes, the Vimeo presentation of the Nebraska Medical Orchestra’s rendition of “Finlandia” by Jean Sibelius was anything but simple to put together.

“It took five weeks to produce,” said Matthew Brooks, D.M.A., director of orchestral activities in music and medicine at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

The orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Brooks, was created in 2018 as a collaborative project between UNMC and the UNO School of Music. It is comprised of students, faculty, and staff from UNMC and Nebraska Medicine with the support of UNO School of Music faculty and students as mentors.

The idea surfaced in early April. As more people found themselves sheltering in their homes, Dr. Brooks said he and other orchestra members began seeing videos of musicians, choral groups and others coming together in a virtual platform and performing.

After a brief survey of orchestra members, it was decided that those members who had the time would record a song in an effort to uplift and thank all the front line health care professionals.

But you don’t just hit record as you play along with a track, Dr. Brooks said. It would take some coordination and help from Zach Lovitch, music technology manager at the UNO School of Music.

To make it work, Dr. Brooks chose a particular excerpt from “Finlandia,” one that wasn’t too complex, to which all the musicians could easily follow along.

Then he arranged a slightly modified version of the excerpt to accommodate the limited variety of instruments the available musicians played and made a digitized track for them to listen to.

After that, it was up to the musicians.

“Each person had to record their own individual track, and, if you notice, some of them are wearing headphones to help them stay in sync,” Dr. Brooks said.

After all the tracks were recorded, it was up to Lovitch to pull it all together.

“He had the hardest part, adjusting for sound, laying out the graphics and lining it all up so that the end result looks and sounds effortless. Zach did a great job,” Dr. Brooks said.

“It was really important for this group because many of these folks who work in health care are on the front lines and this is our way to share our gratitude,” he said.


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