If you’ve driven by the QLI campus near 72nd and Sorenson Parkway on a Tuesday evening in the spring or fall and heard music emanating from the grounds, there’s a good reason.
It means the nonprofit organization is welcoming another local singer or band to the 60-acre campus to raise the roof and entertain residents, staff and families at “Sounds on the Grounds.”
Things have gotten so fun and boisterous that on occasion, the event – which has occurred every Tuesday in May and resumes in late August through September for the past nine years – has been cited for disturbing the peace.
The payoff is seeing the smiles on the faces of QLI’s residents – providing them with some music therapy via entertainment and allowing them to temporarily escape the physical and/or mental disabilities that complicate their lives.
“They (residents) really lose themselves in the music, and I think it’s easy for them to forget they are wheelchair-bound or have multiple sclerosis or have a brain injury,” said Kevin Lynch, who has organized and booked acts for QLI’s “Sounds on the Grounds” for the past six years. “They just have fun.”
The only program of its kind in the United States, QLI has brought national attention to Omaha for its innovative post-hospital rehabilitation and long-term care programs for young adults who have suffered a brain injury or spinal cord injury, serving clients from more than 25 states in 2011.
QLI has been voted the #1 Best Place to Work in Omaha by its 350-plus employees (in a Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce annual survey) four times and sits on a $70 million, 60-acre college-style campus (complete with housing and onsite recreation and activities). QLI is a noteworthy economic driver for the Metro, regularly hosting professionals from across the country.
“Sounds on the Grounds” invites a mixture of different music genres out to perform – country, rock, Blues, pop, cover bands, etc. Folk rock singer Korey Andersen kicked off the 2012 fall “Sounds” followed by Spontaneous Combustion, a 60s rock cover band, and then Cry Tough, a Poison cover band. Blue Agent, a rock cover band, Talking Heads cover band Rock & Roll Suicide and Nikki Boulay and the Finest Hour closed out the season the last Tuesday in September. “Sounds on the Grounds” will resume next spring for its 10th year.
Past acts have included Broken 99, a Christian rock band, and AC/DC cover band Shoot to Thrill, among many others.
“Sounds on the Grounds” is definitely something the residents look forward to – regardless of who is playing – and the singers and bands enjoy the experience, too, Lynch said.
“We try to get a diverse group of local acts to come out so we can have something for everyone,” Lynch said. “But our residents enjoy spending time outside and listening to the music no matter who is performing. It really is therapeutic for them, and the artists really enjoy performing because the audience is relatively small but really gets into it and enjoys the music.”
And the artists sometimes get into the spirit of giving more than just their musical talents. Nikki Boulay and the members of the Finest Hour took the modest stipend they were paid to perform and bought instruments for the residents to use and play during their show. Other acts have declined payment, choosing instead to perform for free and to see the enjoyment on the faces of the residents.
“I really enjoy it; I love the music,” said Cheryl, a resident in QLI’s Lied Assisted Living apartments on the East Campus, who has been to almost every “Sounds on the Grounds” since it started 10 years ago. “Even when I’m not up to sitting outside, I can still hear the music from my room.”
Lynch said oftentimes the most difficult part of organizing “Sounds” is finding a date that works for both QLI and the acts, but those who come out to perform leave with a different sense of accomplishment and appreciation for music and life.
“It’s really just a cool atmosphere with lots of fresh air, and we always get great feedback from residents, family members and staff about what a great event it is,” Lynch said. “And the artists always have a great time and really feed off of the energy of the crowd. We can’t thank the artists enough for coming out and performing at QLI. People definitely look forward to Tuesday nights.”
Here’s a list (not comprehensive but it gives you a good idea of the local acts that have come to perform at QLI):
Nikki Boulay and The Finest Hour
Nathan Wade and The Un4givens
So, So Sailors
Mitch Armstrong Trio
Shoot To Thrill
Rock ‘N Roll Suicide
Kent Barnes and the Night Shakers
Hard Times Band
Kelsy and Jessica