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Memphis Symphony Orchestra's Martin Luther King Commission, Paul Brantley's 'The Rebirth of the Dream,' to Involve Local Schools

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Aug 23, 2013 05:11 PM EDT | James Inverne

Memphis Symphony Orchestra's Martin Luther King Commission, Paul Brantley's 'The Rebirth of the Dream,' to Involve Local Schools

Following a nationwide competition that saw 282 entries from 35 states, Paul Brantley was selected to compose 'The Rebirth of the Dream.' (Photo : PaulBrantley.com)

Music and schoolchildren will converge around Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech, thanks to an interesting-sounding project in Memphis, the place where King was assassinated in 1968. The Memphis Symphony Orchestra will present a new work called The Rebirth of the Dream, inspired by King's speech, and that work will become a focal point for lessons at elementary schools in the region.

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The idea came about from a women's group, some 150-strong, who support MSO music director Mei-Ann Chen in her drive to find ever-deeper ways for music to reach out to the Memphis community. Over a period of months, the women talked through the effect that King's murder had on Memphis--the perspective that lends to the city of today and what they would like it to be tomorrow.

The expression of all of that in music and a concurrent educational project sounds like a natural next step. Composer Paul Brantley, who hails from Georgia and lives in New York, won a competition to write the piece--and a specially-formed ensemble will perform it in fifth grade civics classrooms. It is hoped that the project will be expanded, not least to other communities.

It's a lovely idea. Viewing formative historic events through the prism of music, events that inspire, perhaps especially those that cause pain and split communities, can provide a way of understanding for children--of the events, of what they mean, of music itself and maybe too, understanding of each other.

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