HMC Guest Soloist Nancy Nail Shares Thoughts on What Singing the Role of Jane Clementi in Tyler’s Suite Has Meant to Her.
Singing “I Love You More” from Tyler’s Suite has been life changing for me. I have always, always enjoyed singing with HMC but this song has become very special. After getting the call to sing in Identify with HMC in March of 2017 from Dustin Cates, I have to admit that I knew nothing about Tyler Clementi or Tyler’s Suite. Shame on me. But what I found out was mind-blowing.
Tyler was a talented young musician who committed suicide after being bullied by his freshman roommate. An 18-year-old college student at Rutgers University, Tyler was being intimate with another man when his roommate surreptitiously recorded it and put word of it on the Internet. Humiliated, Tyler killed himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. After hearing about the tragedy, Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz gathered a team of renowned composers to raise awareness about anti-gay bullying. Tyler’s Suite is based upon hundreds of hours of interviews with the Clementi family after Tyler died, and gives voice to the experiences of Tyler and his family, shining a light of hope on tragedy. One of the songs written, “I Love You More,” represents the voice of his mother, Jane Clementi.
Through all of my research, I wanted to learn more about Tyler. But more importantly, for my role with the Chorus, I wanted to learn about Jane. In college, I majored in acting and have always approached singing from an “actor’s” point of view. It was important to me to understand Jane Clementi. What I found was that Jane, through such a horrible tragedy, had chosen to take her pain and start a foundation in the name of Tyler. Jane created a place for conversations, a place to elevate issues, to help people understand, to bring topics out into the light, to take away shame and embarrassment. What an incredibly strong woman!
So every time I sing “I Love You More” I am doing so as “Jane.” My strength to sing comes from her. To sing it in any other way, at least for me, would do the song an injustice. It’s not about me … Nancy Nail … when I sing it. It’s about Jane and her family. It’s quite emotional, but the song brings such an important message. Make sure to tell the ones we love how important they are, and how much we love them and support them. As a mother of two children, I can’t imagine having to go through what Jane endured. I must admit, when learning the solo at home, I could NOT make it through to the end for several weeks, as I would start to cry and have to walk away. As every emotion of losing a child would sweep over me, I literally could not continue.
Singing “I Love You More” at the Folly last March and getting to meet and know Jane Clementi was really amazing. Then to be asked to “understudy” Ann Hampton Callaway at Lincoln Center in May with DCINY and Dr. Tim Seelig conducting! Well it was truly one of those “Ah Hah” moments that I will never, ever forget. The song has absolutely changed me. I told Jane Clementi as I have told others that have asked how I get through the song without crying. I can’t quite explain it because I did not know Tyler, but I feel him around me every single time I sing it. I know that Tyler is with me every step of the way.