Samora sat in the middle of Storycatcher’s Changing Voices rehearsal room behind a 76-key keyboard. He’s not a big guy, so he was mostly covered up by the keyboard, its speaker, and the snapback on his head sporting the words ‘Peace King.’
“Can I play a song for you?” he asked.
The CV ensemble agreed. Samora was in the middle of leading a workshop with Changing Voices on the basic principles of music theory and his experience as a composer. Instead of playing another original song on the keyboard for everyone, Samora plugged his laptop into the speaker.
He played a piece from trumpeter Terence Blanchard’s album written in dedication to Hurricane Katrina. Samora told us to listen for the conversation between the trumpet and the piano.
The song played. It started out simply but soon propelled sweeping melodies into the rehearsal space led by the daring trumpet. Midway through the song, one Changing Voices youth, Deon, was sitting up but had his eyes closed, his head moved slowly from side to side with the trumpet and piano. Shawn, our music director, was seated next to him, his eyes also closed and head swaying in the same manner. Two men caught up in the music.
The song ended.
“That was amazing, man,” CV youth Quincy said, “Send me a link to that beat.”
Samora is a composer and musician who has worked across the music industry—he is currently collaborating with Common on a new album and was a 2018 artist-in-residence at Joe’s Pub/The Public Theater. He is dedicated to examining sociopolitical issues through music, which is what brings him to Storycatchers. As a part of his current work The Healing Project, Samora is looking at how people who have interacted with the justice system find ways to heal. He is conducting interviews across the country and will use these interviews to compose music.
He offered this workshop on his first day with us, and he spent the following two days giving one-on-one piano and voice lessons, swapping stories with the CV ensemble, and recording interviews, poetry, and music to inspire his project compositions.
His project is supported by the Soros Justice Fellowship and the Art for Justice Fund, a foundation that supported Storycatchers in 2018 and 2019.
After the trumpet subsided, Samora asked if anyone wanted to share something they’d written. “What song you all want to sing?” Artistic Manager Oz asked.
“’Let It Go.’”
As Shawn got his music set-up, Oz explained that ‘Let It Go’ was written by one of our current young people about the aftermath of getting stabbed at a party. In this story, this young man’s mom sat by his hospital bed and asked him to let go of his anger. To not retaliate. To not fight this incident of violence with more violence that could potentially hurt him further.
The ensemble, seated close around the piano, sang that song together. Then they sang another song—this one about the experience of longing to go home when you’re waiting in prison. And then another, and another, with continuous requests coming from all directions. By the third song, people were up dancing, everybody was singing along with genuine energy and comradery.
What does some healing look like coming out the justice system? Perhaps it looks like this.
Thank you so much to Samora for spending a week with us!
Interested in bringing your professional talents for a workshop with Changing Voices? Reach out to Tory at firstname.lastname@example.org.