What started as a casual conversation in the basement of the MGH has grown into an anthem.
Shortly after he started his job as an instrument inventory specialist in the MGH Operating Rooms, John Ventura bumped into Gleeson Rebello, MD, in the hallway. The pediatric orthopædic surgeon at MassGeneral Hospital for Children inquired as to how a family member of Ventura’s was healing following a surgery Rebello had performed the previous year. From there, the conversation turned to Ventura’s new career and his background as a musician and graduate of the Berklee School of Music.
The discussion struck a chord – and then another and another.
“One day we were talking, and John said, ‘I love my job at the MGH, but I feel I am meant to play instruments, not keep count of them,” Rebello recalls. “I asked how I could help and he told me he needed a songwriter.”
Rebello, who has authored two children’s books, had never penned a song, but wanted to give it a shot. With Rebello drafting lyrics and Ventura composing the music, the pair met during lunch breaks and after hours, using a music therapy piano in the Lunder subbasement. “Our first song was called ‘Exploited’ and it was a rock anthem for exploited and disenfranchised workers,” Rebello says. “Our songs are directed at social causes and our motto is ‘Making the world reflect, one song at a time.’”
As the duo continued to combine their creative skills, they also expanded – creating a band called The Fever Breakers. The group is now comprised of Ventura on piano and vocals; Rebello who drafts lyrics and produces the resulting arrangement; Zachary Anderson, MGH inventory specialist, on lead guitar; and Fredlais Eugene, a former transportation associate at the MGH, on bass guitar. Jonathan Ulman, percussion manager at Berklee, is the band’s drummer. They record their material at Revolution Studio in Charlestown with Matthew Girard, who is their sound engineer and plays the trumpet for some of their songs.
“We’ve recorded six songs over the past 10 months,” Ventura says. “‘She Lives We Live’ is about climate change and global warming. ‘Bully’ is a song that explores the role interchangeability between victim and bully, and it recently won a bronze medal for listener impact, content and message delivery in the Global Music Awards competition. Its music video also was selected as a semi-finalist in the U.S. Hollywood International Golden Film Award competition.”
Their latest song, “Yes! We Are America” is an attempt to encapsulate the story of modern America in a song. “With the midterm elections in mind, we released this song as a healing, uniting and bipartisan song,” says Rebello. “It is a salve for our increasingly fracturing nation. And we were thrilled that a few of our MGH orthopedic colleagues have a cameo at the end of the song.”
Unity. It’s a theme that strikes a chord for Rebello and Ventura. “We come from different backgrounds. I am a brown, fresh-off-the-boat immigrant and he’s a local white dude,” Rebello laughs. “And, we have different political views. Yet, we are very close friends. We wanted to create this song as we both thought it was so important. This is a classic example of what America is about – seeing opportunity in the most unlikely of venues and collaborations between completely different individuals whose only common bond is that they are American. Because, we can work together. We can have fun together. We can agree – and disagree – with one another. Because, Yes! We are America.”
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