In a beautiful and moving response to the shootings at their own school last month, 21 young students from Sandy Hook Elementary and another school in Newtown, Connecticut came together to record “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” with the help of singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson, and Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of The Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club. I had a chance to catch up with Chris yesterday about how it all came together.
Downloads of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” are benefitting two organizations chosen by the community itself, Newtown Youth Academy and the United Way of Western Connecticut. Thanks to The Orchard group, who’ve put up a great page helping to publicize the effort, you can support the community by picking up the mp3 on iTunes, eMusic, and Amazon.
Just one week ago, Chris and Tina got a call from long time activist and CBGB’s booking agent Louise Staley about the idea that she was working on with CBGB’s owner Tim Hayes – to put together a recording with kids from Sandy Hook School. Of course, Chris said they were “happy to help, any way they could.” Together with Newtown music school director Sabrina Post, they brought together a group of kids in their studio.With Sabrina directing, the 21 strong ad hoc chorus tracked to Ingrid’s pre-recorded ukelele and voice for better sound. The rest is history, still writing itself.
As Chris and I spoke, I was struck again by how much things have changed here in the last 15 years since the first school shooting took place at Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky in 1997. “We moved out here to Fairfield, Connecticut, which is about 15 miles from Newtown, so we could be some place quieter and safer to raise our kids,” said Chris.
Creating real change starts at community level and this recording is a great synergy between local and widespread reach for impact. I asked Chris if there are plans to deepen the deepen the impact beyond the recording with continued programming, curriculum or events with youth. Right now, the focus is getting it out as far and wide as possible, and getting airplay for the track, which was among top downloads on iTunes on Wednesday.
We at difrent: are strong believers in what producer Tim Hayes says is music’s “power to heal both the listener and the performers,” and hope to see and support efforts to take this conversation with youth into numerous communities. There are times when the most important and effective thing to do isn’t to point fingers, but to lift high an expression of beauty that reaffirms our connection to each other. We wonder what could happen if music that united us filled our radios and TV’s instead of endless reportage on things that divide us. So, we’re even more happy to see the coverage this song is getting, and hope to see it’s impact spread far and wide.
Photos courtesy of Chris Frantz