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January 26, 2016

ACS Juvenile Justice Youth in “Musical Connections” Program Perform at Carnegie Hall

Twenty juvenile justice youth, who are students at Belmont Academy, performed original songs at Carnegie Hall before an audience full of staff, family, and friends on Tuesday, January 26th. As part of Carnegie Hall’s “Musical Connections” program, the court-involved youth worked with professional musicians to write their own music and poetry inspired by the classic musical “West Side Story.” In partnership with the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), Passages Academy and the Center for Community Alternatives, the students were part of “The Somewhere Project,” a series of performances at Carnegie Hall based on stories, scenes, and characters from “West Side Story.” The teens participated in weekly songwriting workshops with the Brown Rice Family, a Brooklyn-based world roots band, to create four original songs inspired by the timeless musical. The lyrics in their music explored themes such as love, finding oneself and the uncertainty about the future.

“Love Song” is inspired by the romance between the characters Tony and Maria, who fall madly in love though they are affiliated with rival gangs. Jay, a young man in the program helped write the song, and said it was written “for someone…I love…[to] express how [I] feel …the song is a way to dedicate my love.” The lyrics, “this ain’t your everyday love song. I been writing about you all night long” can be heard repeatedly throughout the song and resonates with the emotions between Tony and Maria.

Julia, who has participated in the Musical Connections program three times, really enjoys writing songs and poems. “They’re really supportive…it’s cool,” she said about the program. Julia contributed to the writing of “Love Song” and “Who Knows,” a song based off “Something’s Coming” from the musical. In the song, Tony expresses uncertainty and feelings of excitement for what’s to come in the future. The hook written by Julia, “Memories fade. Stories unfold. My vision is the brightest. In a world so cold. There’s no telling. Where this road goes. Who knows…This is the first day of the rest of my life,” speaks to the optimism about the future Tony expressed in “Something’s Coming.”

To listen to the songs the teens recorded and performed, please visit: Here are some pictures from their final dress rehearsal and performance.


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