Music has the power to heal in times of tragedy.
Last school year, three revered Buffalo Grove High School teachers died within months of each other, inducing a sense of shock and underlying grief for students and colleagues.
The school's chamber orchestra is helping the community cope by performing an original composition, "Solaces," dedicated to the three teachers and those connected to the school's past, present and future.
The orchestra's first public performance of the piece will take place during a free concert at 4 p.m. Sunday, in the school theater, 1100 W. Dundee Road. Next Thursday, the students will perform "Solaces" at a state music festival in Peoria, in addition to two performances in March.
It's a musical composition anyone can relate to, said Elizabeth Bennett, the school's director of orchestras and conductor of the 18-member student group.
"Everyone has experienced grief," Bennett said. "Everyone seeks solace in some way."
Before the first day of classes for the 2016-2017 year, the school community learned of the June 2016 death of Stacey Baylen, 42, a special-education teacher, after a battle with colorectal cancer. In November, 39-year-old Stephanie Ramos, a world languages instructor, suffered a heart attack and collapsed in her classroom after the school day had ended. Then math teacher Christine Lindbloom, 39, died from breast cancer in February 2017.
Bennett said with each death came added shock, sorrow, fear, anger, discomfort and the search for answers. The loss of the three female teachers was coupled with other tragedies felt by staff members and students: the death of loved ones, accidents and medical battles.
It prompted Bennett to recall the message she tries to impart to her students: "You play music for enjoyment and fulfillment for yourself, but what good is it unless you share it with others?"
Maybe music could help the school community in its time of grief, in a way that words couldn't, she thought.
Bennett reached out to her one-time high school orchestra director in West Des Moines, Iowa, who has worked with a number of composers. He recommended Russell Scarbrough, of New York, who Bennett tasked with incorporating the notes B, G, H and S -- the school initials -- in the piece.
It's no small task, since those keys aren't commonly used together in western music, but they would fit well in the classical German style of a Johann Sebastian Bach, for instance. No wonder, then, that Bennett admits she's a fan of Bach and has a poster of him in her classroom.
The song, beginning with those four notes played by the student violinists, "starts out with a shock," Bennett says.
"I think that's what we experience when we first have grief."
Through the piece, there are moments of desolation and depression, she says, but eventually there's comfort.
James Cozzi, a junior who plays violin, said the composition is unique, compared to what he's performed in the past. After rehearsing since November, he says he's gained a deeper understanding of the meaning behind it.
"The teachers meant a lot to these students. They felt they lost something," Cozzi said. "I feel like we're a bandage on that. We're helping out the community."