Anthony D.J. Branker, the founder and director of the program in jazz studies at Princeton university, his alma mater, has written a new composition for orchestra and jazz quartet in honor of Trayvon Martin.
Branker said he wanted the piece “to be a form of healing and something that could be seen as a composition of hope–one that speaks to all of us to continue to work together so that children of any race, ethnicity or religious affiliation never have to meet such a tragic end.”
Branker says his own personal experience with racism resurfaced after Martin was killed and that he was “moved to the core.” He remembered an incident when he was in his early 20s: “I was stopped by police at gunpoint because it was believed I broke into someone’s home. I fit a profile. Police surrounded my car.”
Branker’s opus, “Ballad for Trayvon Martin for Orchestra and Jazz Quartet,” premiered Thursday at Princeton, along with performances of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, Beethoven’s “Egmont” overture, and a world premiere of “Teatro di Strada” by David Sanford.
Branker said the piece was not written in anger, and not only is the piece a tribute to Martin but also others who have suffered from racial violence. He said, “I see my role as an educator and composer and artist to not so much address historic events, but to touch the listener in some way, to make some sort of contact and relationship. I simply want to make a connection, whether it’s on a level of social consciousness, or music and expression.”