VocalEssence brings lullabies to Longfellow

Members of VocalEssence sing lullabies written by students of Longfellow Alternative High School. Photo by Nate Gotlieb

Lullabies filled the gym Monday at Longfellow Alternative High School, an alternative school for teenage parents and pregnant teens.

Members of VocalEssence sang the melodies written by students as part of a National African American Family Involvement Day ceremony. The collaboration is part of the Lullaby Project, a national program from the New York-based Weill Music Institute of Carnegie Hall.

The project has students write letters to their children and eventually turn those letters into lullabies. VocalEssence has worked with students at Longfellow for the past two years, helping them turn the words and melodies into choral pieces.

It’s part of an effort to get the students to understand the value of singing, talking to their children and using creative voices, VocalEssence Associate Conductor G. Phillip Shoultz, III said.

“Even if (the kids) don’t see you, they know you’re there when they hear your voice,” he said.

Longellow students partner with VocalEssence over the course of three months. The organization is careful to make sure they empower the students to make musical decisions, Shoultz said. It invites the moms to the recording studio and have a unveiling party for the new songs.

This year, the organization partnered worked with five African American students at Longfellow as well as guest artist Melanie DeMore.

Longfellow principal Padmini Udupa said the program brings music into the school, which otherwise does not have a music program.

“It’s given us a meaning,” she said. “Music and education go hand in hand.”

Longfellow serves about 100 teenage parents and pregnant teens, providing school for them and daycare for their kids. The school requires students to take a parenting class and offers housing and legal help as well as a health clinic three days a week.