In our next performance, Identify, Heartland Men’s Chorus begins with “Tyler’s Suite,” the tragic story of Tyler Clementi. Conceived by famed Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz (Wicked), “Tyler’s Suite” is a nine-piece choral movement dedicated to the memory of Tyler Clementi. Clementi was a talented young musician who committed suicide after being bullied by his freshman roommate. An 18-year-old college student at Rutgers University, Clementi was having sex with another man when his roommate surreptitiously recorded it and put word of it on the Internet. The resulting humiliation led Clementi to kill himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. After hearing about the tragedy, 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 explores the voices and experiences of Tyler and his family, shining a light of hope on tragedy.
Stephen Schwartz says of the project, “The story of Tyler Clementi, the story of loss of one young man who clearly had so much to offer the world, reminds us that every life lost because of bullying and bigotry is a specific individual tragedy. This is why I, and this group of gifted collaborators who have joined me, feel privileged to bring our time, energy and talents to the creation of ‘Tyler’s Suite.’”
“Tyler’s Suite” explores the voices and experiences of Tyler and his family through the music of nine of today’s top composers including Mark Adamo, Ann Hampton Callaway, Craig Carnelia, John Corigliano, Stephen Flaherty, Nolan Gasser, Jake Heggie, Lance Horne, and Stephen Schwartz. “This collection of songs shines a light of hope for a safer, kinder world in line with the mission of the Tyler Clementi Foundation,” says the foundation website. Jane Clementi, Tyler’s mother, will be on hand to further the work of the foundation created to prevent bullying through inclusion, assertion of dignity and acceptance. “Curious and adventurous, creative, smart, articulate, cheerful, a wonderful easy going personality, Tyler always had a smile on his face . . . its how he hid himself from the world . . . behind a smile,” says Mrs. Clementi. “Tyler was a peacekeeper, private, didn’t seek attention . . . he was comfortable blending in, but he loved to perform, his true passion was music. He was a gifted violinist.” Mrs. Clementi will also be there to listen and to share, “Conversations help illuminate and elevate issues, and help people to better understand topics. By bringing topics out into the light, it takes away the stigma of shame and embarrassment . . . and allows people to know that there’s nothing wrong with who they are or who they love.”
“Tyler’s Suite” will be performed with local artist Nancy Nail as the voice of Jane Clementi. Each of the nine songs takes on the perspective of a different family member in Tyler’s life. Tickets can be purchased at https://hmckc.org/tickets or by calling 816-931-3338.
* “Tyler’s Suite” was commissioned by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and premiered in 2016.