Music at First Unitarian Church

The music at First Unitarian has our affirming hymns performed with gusto; lively contemporary music and an outstanding choir called the Sanctuary Singers. This is the foundation of our musical strength, complimented with guest musicians with visits from Omaha symphony members, Celtic singers, and mariachi bands. We are proud of our diverse and fun music!

Music Staff

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William Miller, Sanctuary Singers Director 

William has been a choral conductor for over 30 years. His previous choral conducting roles were with Baptist Presbyterian Church in Valley, NE, First Presbyterian in Council Bluffs, Benson Presbyterian and has been the director at First Unitarian since 2016. He obtained his Bachelor of Music Degree in Voice Performance from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Aside from choral conducting, he's participated in hand bell choirs and is a frequent soloist. William has performed with Opera Omaha for over 30 years and has performed in over 50 productions. A skilled keyboardist, he has accompanied vocal soloists and choirs as well as performed in instrumental ensembles. William earned a Master of Arts, Management degree from Bellevue University and has worked at several Omaha area Fortune 500 companies and currently works at Union Pacific Railroad Company as the Director of Technology Vendor Management.
 

J. Gawf, Sanctuary Singers Accompanist

J. Gawf is an accomplished pianist, collaborative pianist and a highly trained vocal coach in musical theater and opera. He earned his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in Piano Performance from the University of Central Oklahoma and a Master of Music degree in Opera Coaching/Piano Accompaniment from Temple University in Philadelphia. J. has collaborated with Opera Saratoga, Michigan Opera Theater, Augusta Opera, New Jersey Opera Theater, Center City Opera and numerous international musical theater and opera singers. He continues to work regularly with the Omaha Symphony and was previously the Music Director at Opera Omaha.

Pat Will, Organist

 

Pat is a member of the American Liszt Society and the American Matthay Association. She holds both bachelor and masters degrees from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. She has taught at the Eastman School, the Longy School of Music (Cambridge, MA), Duchesne College (Omaha), the University of Nebraska Omaha and College of Saint Mary (Omaha), from which she retired in 2000.

Patricia began playing the organ for church at age 13 in her father's Presbyterian church in Superior, NE and continued during the time he was minister at Miller Park Presbyterian Church in Omaha. Patricia Will became the organist at First Unitarian Church in 1975. She maintains a private piano studio in Omaha.

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Judi Unger, Interim Off Beats Music Director

Judi Unger (Torneten) is a professional musical and vocalist who has performed with Opera Omaha for over 22 years, has performed with the Omaha Symphony, Trinity Episcopal’s Schola Cantorum, and has been Summer Music Director for almost a decade at First Unitarian, Judi serves on the board of the Omaha Chamber Music Society as well as on the board of Résonance Vocal Ensemble. She is also passionate about music education, and teaches vocal music, chorus, Ghanian drumming and ukulele for Omaha Public Schools. Judi completed graduate research on music education in Kerala, India, as part of her masters program. She loves performing and teaching music, and using music as a means of social justice activism.

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The Sanctuary Singers 

The First Unitarian Sanctuary Singers is an all-volunteer SATB ensemble. Our mission is to provide each singer an opportunity to grow musically and spiritually and to have fun doing it. Guest instrumentalists often accompany the group on designated pieces. Under the direction of William Miller and accompanied by J Gawf, the Sanctuary Singers serve the First Unitarian Church community with a diversity of music to lift the spirits and enhance the worship experience.

 

Join Us!

We welcome new singers and invite you to try us out. If you choose to join, the commitment is modest:

  • The choir rehearses 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays from late August through early June.

  • We sing two, occasionally three, services each month with a larger concert in May.

  • Sanctuary Singers members are invited to lead the congregation in traditional carols during our Christmas Eve candlelight services.

 

We are a very sociable group. While many members have sung in the choir for 10, 15 or 20 plus years, we always offer a warm welcome and a helping hand to new singers.

 

Repertoire

Our growing repertoire embraces the full diversity of the human experience:

  • Contemporary choral arrangements, including those by local and national Unitarian-Universalist composers

  • Sacred choral classics from the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods, including anthems, chorales, masses, motets and opera choruses

  • Gospel favorites, both classic and contemporary arrangements

  • Folk music, including popular tunes and sacred hymns

  • World music from Africa, Asia and Latin America embracing a variety of religious and cultural traditions

 

Our singers’ artistic versatility allows us to perform everything from ancient church chant to Fauré to spirituals to South African, jazz, and gospel songs.

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The Off Beats
 

The group will meet up for practice on Tuesday nights and will offer musical gifts in a variety of styles once a month in worship. Singers, drummers, guitarists, horn players and more participate in The Off Beats. Judi Unger is the director of this group.