By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Music inspired by a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle will be performed at Friday’s University of Nebraska at Kearney commencement ceremony.
UNK alumnus Jonathan Jaworski wrote the song “ECLIPSE” to express his excitement for last year’s “Great American Eclipse” – a total solar eclipse stretching from coast to coast that was visible along a 70-mile-wide path across Nebraska.
“I actually wrote the piece beforehand,” said Jaworski, who read about the eclipse five or six years prior.
“I had always wanted to see a total solar eclipse,” he said. “I was really excited.”
The 2003 graduate of UNK composed his piece from March 2017 through mid-July, finishing about a month ahead of the Aug. 21 event that brought more than 7,500 people to UNK’s Cope Stadium for a solar eclipse watch party.
Jaworski looked on from his parents’ backyard in Hastings as the moon slowly slid between the sun and Earth, leading to the climactic moment of midday darkness.
“It was pretty true to what I actually experienced in August,” Jaworski said of “ECLIPSE,” which explores the feelings a total solar eclipse evokes from those experiencing the phenomenon.
The piece opens with a brief morning scene before a tempo change signals the start of the eclipse. A series of mood changes follows as the moon advances over the sun before reaching totality.
“The experience of solar eclipse totality is incredible, and cannot be properly described,” Jaworski wrote in his description of the piece. “Very suddenly, darkness descends, the sun’s wispy corona becomes visible, stars begin twinkling, and sunset-like dusk appears above the entire 360-degree horizon. The viewer (including the composer) is left awestruck, pondering the place of our planet in the cosmos.
“Following totality, the excitement returns as the moon moves off of the sun’s disk, the sun reclaims its place in the sky, and viewers try to figure out when and where the next ECLIPSE will be visible.”
Jaworski, a Hastings native who started composing music in high school, has written about 20 pieces over the years. He presented “ECLIPSE” to UNK band director and associate music professor Duane Bierman during a Nebraska Music Education Association conference in November hoping it could be used as a resource for future middle and high school band teachers.
Bierman liked the piece so much he selected it for the UNK Wind Ensemble, which performed the song at high schools in Central City, Ainsworth and Valentine in February. The group will play it again Friday during spring commencement at the Health and Sports Center.
“I really think Jonathan captured the moment of totality in his piece very well,” Bierman said. “As soon as I heard it, it was easy for me to go back to my memory of that exact moment down on the football field at UNK.”
Jaworski, who has been the instrumental music director at Ashland-Greenwood Public Schools since 2005, hopes others attending UNK’s commencement feel the same way.
“I would bet that a lot of people who are there had that experience last August and the piece will connect with them pretty well,” the 37-year-old said.