A 120-member chorus will join nationally-acclaimed singer Ann Hampton Callaway tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Halton Theatre at Central Piedmont Community College for "Stand U, Sing Out: A Concert to Stop Bullying."
The diverse men’s and women’s chorus will perform “Tyler’s Suite,” a composition from several composers telling the story of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student who committed suicide after being harassed by his college peers in 2010. It’s been performed nationally by men’s choruses but the piece has been re-arranged and, for the first time, will be performed by a mixed chorus tonight.
Kathryn Mahan will direct a 120-voice chorus in a concert aimed at raising awareness on anti-bullying efforts
The event is will raise funds for the Tyler Clementi Foundation’s "Day 1 Campaign," an effort that Tyler’s mother, Jane, says will help prevent bullying before it begins.
“We’re hoping to go further upstream and prevent any type of bullying and harassment form happening,” she says, explaining that schools who sign up for the program pledge to read a declaration against bullying on the first day of school. “They read a declaration of activities, words and actions that are acceptable in the space.”
The new campaign hopes to set forward a positive model of behavior and interaction for students and, Jane Clementi says, can also be used by scouting groups, sporting teams, in universities and in workplaces.
“We’re finding out that a town in New Jersey is going to make the declaration for their town … so the community can become a safe community for everyone,” Clementi says.
Clementi will be in Charlotte for Thursday night's performance. It will be the first time she’s heard it performed by a mixed chorus, as with everyone else in attendance, but it’s certainly not the first time she’s heard the ode to her son’s life. She thinks the musical piece helps bridge an emotional connection between audiences and her son’s story. Tyler himself was a violinist and a lover of music.
Ann Hooper, a concert organizer, says music is a gift that can bring healing. Throughout rehearsals and preparations, she says, organizers have heard stories of people’s past experiences, moments of reconciliation and coming to terms with what she calls “hidden hurts.”
“I think sitting there in the audience, those times might come back to people,” she says. “We always hope there is healing in music. At funerals, birthday parties, elsewhere — we don’t think about it, but music is interwoven into the tapestry of our lives. Music is a gift we want to give to the community.”
The concert will also raise funds for Time Out Youth’s local School Outreach Program. The local non-profit agency supports LGBTQ youth in area schools. Hooper hopes the concert will reach new audiences and set a new tone of understanding.
“I realize it’s sort of Pollyanna to say, ‘It gets better,’ but it does,” Hooper says. “Right now, there’s a lot of polarization in our community in some ways and I don’t think we take the time to listen to kids and listen to each other. We don’t listen and I think though the music we’re trying to be very healing. It can speak to you.”
Reconciliation is also something Clementi hopes for — and it’s something the Tyler Clementi Foundation has seen occurring as it spreads its message against bullying. James, Tyler’s brother, recently visited a school and afterward received an email from someone who had been the perpetrator of bullying.
“He realized what he had been doing and he didn’t even know how much harm he could have been causing,” Clementi says. “He apologized to that person and that person was overcome with lots of happiness. They repaired the relationship between each other. They had come to an agreement that everyone does deserve respect and compassion and to be safe.”
The concert opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Halton Theatre at Central Piedmont Community College, 1206 Elizabeth Ave. Tickets are $25 and available here
. Learn more about the concert here
— Matt Comer is the former editor of QNotes, the Charlotte-based LGBT community newspaper of North Carolina. He now freelances and blogs at mattcomer.net.