Tyler Clementi was a smart, talented and creative young man. He had a kind heart and bright spirit, and was deeply loved by his family and friends. He grew up with a passion for music and was an accomplished violinist. Tyler began playing the violin in the third grade. Tyler was also an enthusiastic bicyclist and unicyclist. He taught himself to play the violin while unicycling. He performed in numerous orchestras and was awarded with several accolades for his musical contributions.
Tyler was gay, and had just begun sharing this part of himself with the people he was close to during the summer after his high school graduation. This was a difficult time for him, but he was brave and honest about who he was. After graduating high school, Tyler attended Rutgers University where he was excited to learn, grow and have the freedom to live openly as a gay man. As an incoming freshman he began playing violin at the institution’s high level orchestra. Only a few weeks into his first semester, Tyler’s musical gifts earned him a seat in an orchestra comprised primarily of upperclassmen and graduate students.
At college Tyler became a victim of cyber-bullying. His privacy was invaded when his college roommate set up a webcam to spy on him. The roommate viewed him in an intimate act, and invited others to view this online. Tyler discovered what his abuser had done and that he was planning a second attempt. Viewing his roommate’s Twitter feed, Tyler learned he had widely become a topic of ridicule in his new social environment. He ended his life several days later by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. Tyler was eighteen years old.
Why sing about this?
Because we live in a world that is not close to safe for LGBTQ young people. We are responsible for bringing this into the light and accountable if we do nothing to make it better.
That is why we are singing this music – to bring awareness – and, hopefully – create something safe and lasting.
To the world, Tyler had it all. He had just begun college at a great school – Rutgers. He had a wonderful, salt of the earth, family. Two brothers, mom and dad. He had music at the core of his being – a music major. He had just come out and was not thrown out or disowned. And yet, as he began to experience life as a young gay man, something terrible happened. His roommate secretly filmed him and posted it on social media.
Tyler felt he had nowhere to turn, no recourse. He was caught in the depths of despair and for him the only way out was to jump from the George Washington bridge and end his life.
What if Tyler had heard a gay men’s chorus sing songs of affirmation – or the stories of others who have found themselves in the depths of despair. He may not have felt so alone and without options.
This is only part of why we are proudly singing this music.
There are so many answers to this question. Tyler represented a true turning point in the progression of what we know of as bullying. His case brought to light what can happen in this age of technology and social media. We often hear about “at risk youth” and sometimes forget that there are countless youth who would never fall into a category such as that who are in an equally fragile place.
About the show
Because of his passion surrounding the story of Tyler Clementi, composer Stephen Schwartz offered to select the composers for the multi-movement work. He guided the process every step of the way. Without his tremendous contribution to this, it would not have become a reality. He chose the seven incredible composers in addition to himself. All the composers significantly discounted their fees in support of the work.
Lyricist Pamela Stewart visited members of Tyler Clementi’s family, and we are grateful to the family for sharing their story. Several movements take these family members’ perspectives. The movement Just a Boy adapts a poem written by Tyler’s father, Joseph, shortly after Tyler’s death. The movement I Love You More, recalls a childhood game between Tyler and his mother, where the response to “I love you,” was always “I love you more.”
Please help support the work of the Tyler Clementi Foundation by making a donation.