Why the Arts make a difference – and why we Teach it.
Jeff Davison. BYPC Music Director
October 1, 2015
On April 15, 2013 the 117th running of the Boston Marathon came to an abrupt halt when two bombs went off near the finish line. Three spectators lost their lives, 260 people were injured and countless Bostonians - including those who are only Bostonians on Marathon Monday - were heartbroken and afraid. Like so many of us, Linda had been having a hard time sleeping, she was moved by the picture of 8 year old Martin Richard holding a poster he had done for an art project. This image of a beautiful life taken too soon had shaken Linda to the core. She felt the innate urge that all artists feel when the world doesn't make sense, she needed to create.
A few weeks after the bombing I attended my Lincoln-Sudbury H.S. class of 197x reunion.
--- I pause here for you to connect with my nice, comfortable, high school reunion frame of mind ---
“Jeffrey! How are you? You look great!” (Linda called me Jeffrey) “So listen – I just wrote this song about the Marathon bombing and I NEED to get it recorded while I’m in town – do you know anybody who has a recording studio? – maybe for free? – and Oh! – You teach music to kids, right? – I hear children singing in this song – do you think you could put together a group of kids to come sing in the studio – and Oh! – could we do this the day after tomorrow??”
Whoa! - - - But in the next moment I understood her motivation and urgency when she pulled me into a quiet corner and played a video recording on her iPhone. That rough cell phone video conveyed the emotion and her need to have this creative seed seen through to completion.
Linda Chorney and I were classmates at Lincoln Sudbury, so we go way way back. She is a career singer-songwriter – one you may have never heard of, even though her album Emotional Jukebox was nominated for a Grammy award in 2012 (along with Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams- Levon Helm won).
Two days after my reunion, on Monday May 27 – Memorial Day – seventeen BYPC students spent the entire day at Studio 101a in Amherst, owned by BYPC good friend Tom Holmes, learning, singing and recording Linda’s song, “Martin”. I suppose, from a strictly academic perspective, that this experience was a great musically educational opportunity. The students had to learn a new song on the spot, learn how to put it into their vocal range, using proper breathing, phrasing, they truly experienced how a professional recording studio works and how a final musical result is produced. But this day taught them SO much more about music than that.
The recording session started when Zach arrived early. Linda thought she'd need to audition all of the kids so she asked him to come in to the studio and sing a couple of phrases for her (I assured her that all of these BYPC kids could sing.) Well, not only did Zach resemble Martin Richard with his short black hair and big eyes, but when he sang the phrase …
"No more hurting people
Peace and Love"
well … he nailed it. Linda was floored. Right then we knew we were creating something special.
Linda sat with everybody, explained why she wrote the song and sang it for us to learn. Remember, this was Memorial Day weekend, not even two months after the bombing. The kids all knew about it and had seen it on TV, many had discussed it with their parents and most knew who Martin Richard was. The kids all sang the chorus:
Boston loves you.
Boston misses you.
Boston will remember you.
You are the face of Boston Strong.
We were in tears. These kids knew that creating this music had meaning and that they were playing a part in a step toward healing. MUSIC had just made a difference in the lives of these BYPC students.
ART – and the artists who are inspired to create art - truly make a profound difference in our lives.
Linda had created this beautiful song, but it didn't end there. She had a notion that there should be some kind of memorial to Martin and the Marathon bombing victims. She made a music video, posted it on YouTube and made the song available online for purchase to download. Linda decided to use any proceeds from the sale of the song to contribute towards a memorial – her ultimate vision was a statue. Well, I don’t know how much you folks know about the profitability of music downloads – but it's not much. However, enough was raised for seed money for a portrait to be painted by an acclaimed artist, David Wells Roth. The painting was presented to the Richard family through a third party. In addition, sculptor Victoria Guerina created a bronze statue of Martin. It should be noted here that none of these creative artists received any compensation for their efforts, it was enough for them to share their gift and create a tangible remembrance of this special boy.
Eighteen months after writing and recording "Martin" – Linda received a call from Bill Richard, Martin’s father. The family was deeply touched by the painting, the model – and the song.
On September 26, 2015, Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts dedicated the Martin Richard Institute of Social Justice. The feature of the ceremony was the dedication of the full-size bronze statue of Martin created by artist Victoria Guerina, the oil portrait painted by artist David Wells Roth – and the song “Martin” sung by artist Linda Chorney.
The BYPC students who are reading this and were involved in recording “Martin” over two years ago all share some very special memories from that day and probably didn't imagine that the song you sang was only the beginning. Sure – it was cool that you got to record in a real recording studio, and were briefly in a music video on YouTube, but the amazingl thing is that the music that you helped create – made a difference.
This is why we Teach the arts.
Photos by David Baron