On March 19, the State College Presbyterian Church will present “Tyler’s Suite,” a special concert commissioned by the Tyler Clementi Foundation and dedicated to the young musician by the same name.
Stephen Schwartz, the composer responsible for well-known works such as “Wicked” and “Pippin,” supervised nine other composers to create the production. The concert features nine pieces performed by a church and community choir, accompanied by piano and violin.
After Clementi’s death by suicide after being bullied by his roommate as a freshman at Rutgers, the foundation was created in his honor, and to prevent similar circumstances.
“We work to end online and offline bullying in schools, workplaces and faith communities,” executive director Sean Kosofsky said. “We work upstream to prevent bullying before it begins, with research-based solutions.”
The concert holds special significance to Clementi’s life, Kosofsky said.
“Tyler was a talented violinist, so music meant a great deal to him,” Kosofsky said. “The power of art and music to capture the attention of audiences and galvanize them to action can be transformative. These world-famous composers and lyricists have done a magnificent job capturing the family’s story of Tyler’s life and death. Audiences who come to hear this music will feel an emotional connection to this tragedy and will carry that story forward to be upstanders in the face of bullying, harassment and humiliation.”
The concert’s journey to State College began when Ned Wetherald, director of music ministry at State College Presbyterian Church, first heard about “Tyler’s Suite” in an NPR story on the Turtle Creek Chorale’s performance of the same suite several years ago.
“I discovered that the music was published and available to perform through the Tyler Clementi Foundation,” Wetherald said. “The inspiration behind the music is to tell Tyler’s story and raise awareness against bullying. The inspiration of our performance is to give our music ministry the opportunity to present some music above and beyond our regular repertoire.”
Wetherald says the choir, which is made up of performers high school age and older, has been preparing since mid-January, with weekly meetings to learn and practice the pieces. The work behind the production has been an emotional ride for everyone.
“The choir thinks we should pass out tissues for the concert — there are many extremely emotional sections,” Wetherald said. “One especially emotional movement is ‘I Love You More’ when a soloist, who I think represents Tyler’s mother, and the choir sing about the practice of one saying ‘I love you’ as they leave, and the other responding ‘I love you more.’ Much of the choir didn’t make it through that song without crying.”
Jane Clementi, Tyler’s mother, will introduce the concert.
“Jane has become an outspoken, nationally-known advocate in the anti-bullying movement,” Wetherald said. “This special introduction with this wonderful music should make for an inspiring and uplifting event.”
The Music Ministry of State College Presbyterian Church’s performance of “Tyler’s Suite” includes solos by Ryan Ordnung, Patti Begg and Jim Wheeler. Leah Maines will be on violin, with Roger Christman on piano. The concert is free and childcare is provided.
IF YOU GO
- What: “Tyler’s Suite: A Musical Movement”
- When: 3 p.m. March 19
- Where: State College Presbyterian Church, 132 W. Beaver Ave., State College
- Info: www.TylerClementi.org