Music for Parkland

On March 14, 2018, students from around the nation organized a walkout called #Enough to protest gun violence in school and Congress’ response to the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Students from around the country planned to walk out at 10 am for 17 minutes. The walkout manifested in different ways in each school. Conservatory Lab students decided to write and perform original music for the memory of victims slain during Parkland massacre.

However, due to a Winter storm, Boston schools were closed on March 14th and our students could not perform during the walkout. So, our students adapted and recorded the music with the hopes that their activism will inspire action against gun violence and energize those who took part in the March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018. The following videos were sent to the organizers of the march in Boston and Washington D.C. before and during the event. One particular video was spread widely through Facebook and reached audiences across the U.S. 

Synopsis from resident artist Kat Jara:

As a way to express their sorrow, fear, and condolences to the families of the 17 humans murdered in the Parkland school shooting, and to share their outrage with the world at large that such a thing could happen, Conservatory Lab students memorialized their names through a number of compositional devices, developed after reading about each student from a New York Times article.  A code was developed that linked the letters of the alphabet to musical notes, and their names were ‘played’ while students read pieces that were drawn from their hopes for legal changes to gun control or as short thoughts about each particular person.

7th Grade Brass – Alex Schacter and Cara Loughran

8th Grade Lower Strings – Scott Beigel

Together, 8th graders brainstormed a short poem to memorialize Scott Beigel and raise questions about gun violence.   They began their arrangement by creating the feelings of fear and escape by borrowing 16 measures from “The Hut on Hen’s Legs (Baba Yaga)”  by Modest Mussorgsky (From Pictures at an Exhibition).   Students decided to hold the last note of the introduction and add harmonics to create an eerie but heroic sounding drone – this was the musical foundation for the short poem which was then to be spoken aloud.  After the poem, an original student bassline and melody (both created through the exercise utilizing the letters of his name) were set together to imply feelings of melancholy and heroism.

(from resident artist Brad Barrett)

8th Grade Upper Strings – Peter Wang

Students combined short motifs that made them feel like aspects of what they learned about Peter Wang- a pizzicato intro that reminded them of footsteps running down the halls of the Parkland school; followed by a simple melody that felt innocent to them, as he was innocent; and the repeated motif based on the letters of his last name.  Students Joaquin read a short poem dedicated to Peter, and Lilu outlined some of her thoughts around gun control changes that could be made.  The song ended with a melody based on the words “Peter Wang, we will remember you.”

(from resident artist Kat Jara)

7th Grade Lower Strings – Helena Ramsey & Meadow Pollack

7th graders began by brainstorming a short poem that memorialized Meadow Pollack and Helena Ramsey.  Students drew on wonderings posted on notecards in their 7th grade humanities class to help compose the poem.  7th graders then discussed what the sonic environment of a school shooting would be like – students brainstormed sounds like alarms, gunshots, running, and screaming.  Students then discussed ways to turn these sounds into musical actions on their instruments.  7th graders arranged their composition by having basses play the name of Helena Ramsey, followed by the poem being read aloud set with the school shooting sonic environment, and closed with bass and cello playing the name of Meadow Pollack.

(from Brad Barrett)

7th Grade Upper Strings – Joaquin Oliver

Using the notes that coincided with the nickname “Guac,” as Joaquin was known by his friends, students played a melody over a constant B natural- to tie in the idea that he was a basketball player and loved the game.  Two students, Amaya and Jailee, wrote short tributes to Guac that outlined what they believed could have happened had gun laws been stricter to start with, and what the focus of teachers in a school ought to be.

(from Kat Jara)

7th Grade Upper String – Gina Montalto

Students composed a melody based on the name “Gina,” first presented slowly and then with the same notes repeated over and over in a faster pace, to create a feeling of a faster motif dancing, as she danced, over the slower one.  Students Robyn and Hector read their concerns around gun violence and expressed what they think should be changed by the government to keep children safer in school.

(from Kat Jara)

6th Grade Winds – Nicolas Dworet & Martin Duque

6th Grade Lower Strings – Aaron Feis

6th Grade Lower Strings – Luke Hoyer

6th graders worked in two small groups.  One group decided to write a short song in memorial of Luke Hoyer, using his name as the bassline for the song.  The other group chose to rap a text written in memory for Aaron Feis, set to an original bassline composed by a student.  Both texts drew on discussion of their the victims’ memory and the New York Times article.

(from Brad Barrett)

6th Grade Upper Strings – Christopher Hixon

The notes corresponding to the name “Christopher” created a melody line that students performed; it sounded so plaintive, and they chose to leave it as simply as possible because of its sound.  A student read their shared message about how they saw Christopher Hixon, and how he must have been loved as a teacher to be spoken of so well.  At the end of their presentation they made a group plea to “stop the violence.”

(from Kat Jara)

6th Grade Upper Strings – Jaime Guttenberg

Using the notes that corresponded to the words “Rest in peace, Jaime,” students created a melody that they played quietly under Shiningstar’s speech, which reminded listeners of how Jaime was beloved by her family and was taken too soon by someone else’s terrible actions.

(from Kat Jara)