Posted by boston.com December 18, 2013 10:00 AM
The following was submitted by Joyce McMahon:
The holiday season often brings about many and varied emotions for all of us. And nowhere are those emotions displayed more poignantly than on the 2013 edition of the Plummer Home for Boys Annual Holiday CD. Among the 10 songs on the CD are seven original works written, arranged, musically performed and in some cases sung by residents of the Plummer Home and participants in its On Point Program.
“The Holiday CD has always been an honest and direct glimpse inside the lives and minds of our kids,” said Aaron Z. Katz, Plummer Home’s music director. “The main goals of the Plummer Home and On Point music programs are to offer the kids musical tools, inspiration and encouragement,” Katz added. “Our hope is that these tools will enable them to better understand and express their inner worlds as well as communicate and participate with others.”
The Plummer Home for Boys works with and helps teenage boys from the state’s foster care system who often have had traumatic childhood experiences. Some of that trauma is played out in “I Wonder Why” that is written and sung by Carlos an 18 year old resident of Plummer Home. With a hint of a Jack Johnson-type melody, Carlos sings, “Pulled out of my home when I was just a kid; Never knew from day to day the next place I would live; Eighteen different homes; Countless different dads; Deprived of real affection; I never had.”
Katz noted that there are a lot of kids at Plummer who have pent up anger, and said playing music serves as an incredible energy and stress release. “The kids come from a world of spinning wheels and uncertainty,” said Katz. “Music in its purest form gives back to them what they put into it with no contradictions or pretense. Kids searching for some form of truth find it in the music.”
Plummer’s On Point program works with Salem youth on probation as well as other youth living in Salem's Point neighborhood. Last year, the youth at On Point were so moved by the events at the Newtown Elementary School in Sandy Hook, CT that they wrote a song that afternoon titled 12/14/12. Noted in the lyrics as, “…a day we will never forget,” Katz said the song was an organic creation that took about three hours to write and grew out of the conversation about what they were all witnessing, “Looking back it was a painful but truly beautiful way to channel what we were all feeling into a project that fully expresses the emotions we shared,” said Katz. Two North Shore-based professional singers Jacyn Tremblay and Callie Lipton, On Point’s co-director of the music program, both perform in 12/14/12 along with two program participants, Maria and Gyanna.
According to Lipton, Gyanna, who is credited both with writing lyrics and doing vocals on the album, is a natural song writer and performer. “Gyanna has always had big dreams of being a star and of ‘making it’ as a singer/rapper. Her exuberance on and off stage draws people in,” said Lipton.
Other than professional talent, this is the first time girls have been part of a Plummer Home CD. Lipton said, “Being that age in general can be unsettling (dealing with personal identity and self- discovery issues), so music for many of these girls has been very thrilling, but it has also made them face their own insecurities. Singing and performing exposes one in a very personal way, but, the more we worked together, the more comfortable the girls became sharing their own personal lyrics.”
Plummer Home Executive Director James Lister said, “Each year I am amazed at the talent that comes from our kids. They put their hearts and souls into the lyrics and music and we can see the positive transformation in each and every one of them that comes about from their efforts. The process of putting the album together requires the kids to work, coordinate and communicate with others – skills that are vital to helping them make it in society. We are also very grateful for the help and guidance that Aaron, Callie and Jacyn provide. Their musical spirit is contagious and we can’t thank them enough.”
The Plummer Home Holiday CD does contain four holiday tunes. It starts with “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” includes an instrumental version of “Silent Night,” and ends with “Feliz Navidad.” Also featured is an original song, “Because it’s Christmas Time,” which reminds us of all of the wonderful aspects of the holidays.
Katz, who along with Lipton are members of the Salem-based band The Dejas, provides keyboard, percussion, guitar, bass and vocal back-up on some of the songs. When asked why he thought someone should purchase the CD he quoted Lady Bird Johnson, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. But none said it more eloquently than Katz himself, “What these kids bring to the table is pure, unconditioned, uncontrived, open-minded potential and spirit. We would all be wise to support them.”
The CD was recently released to over 1,500 donors and is now available for a small $5.00 donation in Salem coffee shops or by contacting Plummer Home. Proceeds from CD sales benefit the music program. To get a copy of the CD call Plummer Home at 978-744-1099 x. 103 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Plummer Home for Boys
The Plummer Home for Boys provides adolescents innovative support and services, in a safe and nurturing environment, to build the skills and relationships necessary for successful adulthood. The Plummer Home works with at risk youth and their families. Programs include a group home, foster care, independent living apartments and neighborhood-based services. All Plummer Home programming is based on three principles: Permanent Families, Preparedness and Community. For more information visit www.plummerhome.org or call 978-744-1099.
About the Plummer Home Music Program
The Plummer Home music program started in 2007 with the donation of a used piano, and has grown into a thriving, fully-outfitted operation offering instruction in reading, writing, playing and recording music. Earlier this year the program received a boost from the Ernie Boch Jr.’s Music Drives Us foundation via a $5,000 grant. In the past four years musicians from the Plummer Home have done more than a dozen public performances including at the Massachusetts State House, the Youth at Risk Conference in front of 800 people at Endicott College in Beverly, the Salem Essex Street Halloween stage, and the Salem Jazz and Soul Fest among others.