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updated: 1/19/2018 12:56 AM

Buffalo Grove HS orchestra to perform piece written to honor 3 teachers

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  • Video: "It's about the comfort"

  • Katie Gordon, far right, plays her viola during a Buffalo Grove High School chamber orchestra rehearsal of an original composition, "Solaces," in tribute to three teachers who died last school year.

      Katie Gordon, far right, plays her viola during a Buffalo Grove High School chamber orchestra rehearsal of an original composition, "Solaces," in tribute to three teachers who died last school year.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Elizabeth Bennett, the director of orchestras at Buffalo Grove High School, decided to commission an original composition to help the school community cope with the loss of three teachers last school year.

      Elizabeth Bennett, the director of orchestras at Buffalo Grove High School, decided to commission an original composition to help the school community cope with the loss of three teachers last school year.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • The Buffalo Grove High School chamber orchestra rehearses Thursday afternoon ahead of their first public performance of "Solaces," a special composition created in honor of three teachers who died last school year.

      The Buffalo Grove High School chamber orchestra rehearses Thursday afternoon ahead of their first public performance of "Solaces," a special composition created in honor of three teachers who died last school year.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 

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.

Buffalo Grove High School chamber orchestra Director Elizabeth Bennett leads the 18-member group in rehearsal on Thursday afternoon, in advance of their public performance of the special composition "Solaces" at 4 p.m. Sunday.
  Buffalo Grove High School chamber orchestra Director Elizabeth Bennett leads the 18-member group in rehearsal on Thursday afternoon, in advance of their public performance of the special composition "Solaces" at 4 p.m. Sunday. - Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

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.

Johann Sebastian Bach has an influence on the music of the Buffalo Grove High School chamber orchestra, which is performing a piece with the notes B, G, H and S -- similar to the German classical music style.
  Johann Sebastian Bach has an influence on the music of the Buffalo Grove High School chamber orchestra, which is performing a piece with the notes B, G, H and S -- similar to the German classical music style. - Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

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."

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