Desert Chorale quartet to perform youthful offender’s song

August 11, 2017 GMT

While a student at Florida State University, Brandon Boyd helped organize a project for choral students to meet weekly inside prison walls to study music and sing with inmates at the Gadsden Correctional Facility.

One inmate compared the experience to a medicinal healing mentioned in the Bible.

“It’s almost like a balm in Gilead, a healing for my soul while I’m going through this process,” Damanecia Roberston said in a documentary on the project in 2015.

Boyd, who was born in prison to an incarcerated woman, said he developed the project as a way to learn how to teach at a developmental level but that the work ended up being the most rewarding thing he’d done, before coming to Santa Fe this summer.

As composer-in-residence with the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Boyd has worked with mentor Andre J. Thomas, a conductor and composer, on the chorale’s Justice performance, which traces the roots of African-American music traditions, both secular and spiritual.

Boyd also has worked with homeless people at the Interfaith Community Shelter and youth being held at the Santa Fe County Youth Development Center as part of the chorale’s Giving Voice to the Voiceless program.

He has taken a poem written by a 14-year-old girl as part of the youth center’s Voces de Libertad poetry workshops and set it to music, creating a song, “I Search.” A Desert Chorale quartet will perform the song Friday afternoon at the Southside Branch Library. Admission is free.

Boyd, in an interview this week, said he was given a number of poems from youthful offenders to chose from but selected the girl’s work because of its universal themes, including overcoming addiction and struggling for self-identity.

“The very last line says, ‘I’m searching for who I really am,’ ” Boyd said, “and that, for me, was like, ‘I gotta do this poem, this is the one I gotta set.’ ”

Boyd said the poem struck a chord with him because it speaks to the struggle for identity faced by many members of marginalized groups, including incarcerated youth, transsexuals, homosexuals, immigrants, Native Americans and African-Americans.

“In this area, people understand the search for who I am,” he said.

In the end, Boyd said, the girl “comes to a certain resolve that her responsibility was to find love for herself.”

Boyd said the song is set in the style of traditional choral music with piano accompaniment, but it also is laced with elements of gospel music.

Because of confidentially rules, Boyd has never met the author of the poem and knows her only by her first initial, V.

V doesn’t know her poem has become a song, but Boyd said he’s hopeful that with it being featured in the Santa Fe Desert Chorale’s summer performance lineup, “it may even reach the ear of the poet.”

“This piece is not mine. It really is hers,” he said.

Boyd is now a doctoral candidate in choral music and education and was recently hired to teach at the University of Missouri.

Contact Phaedra Haywood at 505-986-3068 or phaywood@sfnewmexican.com. Follow her on Twitter @phaedraann.

If you go

What: Giving Voice to the Voiceless: Desert Chorale performance of a youthful offender’s poem set to music by composer-in-residence Brandon Boyd. Also, selections from the chorale’s Justice program, which traces the roots of African-American music traditions, and spoken word by Albuquerque Poet Laureate Manuel González.

When: 2 to 3 p.m. Friday, Aug. 11

Where: Southside Branch Library community room, 6599 Jaguar Drive

Cost: Free

More information: www.desertchorale.org