My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Witnessing music in action

Music can be so many different things.  It can be entertainment.  It can be worshipful.  It can be impressive.  It can be inspiring.  And for me, at least, music can also be healing - it has been ever since I was a little girl.  But today I witnessed the healing side of music taken to a new level - music was used not only to heal but to also serve as a cautionary tale about what can happen when a young person is routinely ostracized, ridiculed, and bullied.  In the case of Destini, the young girl this song was written about, the tragic result was suicide.

Sarah Poindexter is the composer and performer of the song, "Dear Angel" and she performed her song today at her senior voice recital at Radford University, singing and playing at the piano on a darkly lit stage in front of her classmates, friends, and family.  The song itself is powerful in its rawness and honesty and to see this young woman singing it by herself was like witnessing a private dialogue that she was having within herself, full of doubt, regret, sorrow, but also love.  Such sentiment expressed publicly through music can be uncomfortable to absorb but I also think that songs like this have the power to teach some powerful lessons that can be hard to make stick. 

In "Dear Angel" the lesson is about the dangers of bullying and of socially ostracizing those around us that may be a little different.  Here are Sarah's own words about the song:
It is not easy to write music for me personally. This song took about four years to actually finish, but if I didn't have that time I wouldn't have been able to tell the story in such a moving way. I believe that there was a higher power working with me to tell this story. Destini's story deserves to be told and hopefully it will prevent future events like this from occurring. She was very misunderstood, which is not necessarily accepted in most high school settings these days. Every day she was made fun of for one thing or another, yet she always asked me how I was doing, greeted me with a smile, and was very complimentary any time she heard me sing. While she was different, she was one of the most caring people I knew. Even after her death, her life still seemed to be a joke to people. Where ever Destini is, I want her to know that there were people that cared about her and didn't want to see her go, inspiring the song, "Dear Angel."
And here are the lyrics to the entire song.  Please do read them.
Dear Angel
It was a cold, winter morning when the phone woke me.
I heard a voice that was familiar; it was so shaky.
She said, "Will you pray for the family?"
I wondered what was wrong.
I didn't know the whole story;
I just knew that she was gone.

Some people cried all day long, their hearts bled,
but there were others all around us
where not a tear was shed.
How could they be so careless?
Do they know why she's dead?
We'll never see her again
because of what we all said.

Dear Angel, can you hear me?
This song is for you.
Dear Angel, I know you thought 
that you meant nothing, but you do.

I know it's hard to believe me when I say that we cared,
but I couldn't hold back the tears
staring at your empty chair.
As years went by we lived our lives,
School was finally done.
Altogether having fun; but we missed one.

Dear Angel, can you hear me?
This song is for you.
Dear Angel, I know you thought 
that you meant nothing, but you do.

I walked across the stage to freedom;
I couldn't bear to frown
'cause when I looked up I saw you
smiling in your white cap and gown.
I was glad you finally made it;
I know you're where you are supposed to be.
'Cause when you waved and turned around
I saw your wings.
It was Destini.

Dear Angel, I know you hear me
'cause I'm singing this song to you.
Remember when you thought that you meant nothing,
but you do.

Dear Angel, I'm so sorry
for all we put you through.
I'm doing all that I can do 
to prove to you we miss you. 

I am moved by Sarah's bravery in getting up on stage and performing a piece of hers that is so intensely powerful.  I am thankful to have been in the audience to hear this song performed in such an intimate way.   I'm also proud of the music faculty at Radford University for seeing the need for one of their students to perform a work that might not normally find its way into a graduation voice recital.  And as a mom of a little girl myself, I want to say how important it is that we, as parents, make sure that bullying is not a part of childrens' lives.  If we see our own children engaged in this tempting behavior, it is our responsibility to teach them that it is a dangerous and cruel game and that it is not acceptable.  If we see our own children being bullied, we need to make sure that we step in and change their world to make it a safer place to be.    

"Dear Angel" is available many places online - click here for a link to her song on cdbaby.  Her song is labelled as being "explicit," most likely because it is about suicide but I've listened to it many times and aside from the topic, there is nothing that I find offensive or inappropriate about the song.  It is a testimony.  It is an apology.  It is a love song, all rolled up in one.  

Thank you, Sarah, for your song and for being willing to share these words with all of us.  
"Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent." 
-Victor Hugo
Please pass this on!

Resources for recognizing and dealing with bullying:

For parents and educators:
Stop Bullying - a government sponsored website
Stop Bullying Now

For kids:
Kids against bullying


  1. My own personal journey as a composer is try to convey in music that communicates what I feel inside. Sarah's song "Dear Angel" expresses the sorrow and anxiety of the situation beautifully. The "slightly" out of tune piano adds a nice edge to the piece, while the purity of her voice is soft and honest, exactly what this song needs.

    Thanks Sarah for sharing this very personal moment.
    Thanks Erica for bring it to our attention...

  2. Thank you so much, Chip, for being so interested in this moving piece of music. And I completely agree about the effectiveness of the slightly out of tune piano. Makes it feel even more honest.

    Please feel free to pass the word around about this song. I believe Sarah is wanting as many people as possible to made aware of this serious issue among young people today.

    All the best,

  3. Thanks for passing this along.

    I would wish that in our art and music-making we might succeed to move the human soul BEFORE it reaches a such place of absolute despair.

  4. Thank you for reading, Kim. And yes, that would be my wish as well.


  5. Thank you all for listening! Kim - my hope is also that people are made aware of how serious an issue this is so that other lives can be spared.