Kenwood jazz band to premiere chart w/o 1 guitarist

The jazz band at Kenwood High School in Chicago has been preparing for a very special and meaningful performance on May 30 at Symphony Center, the Chicago Tribune reports. The paper’s music critic, Howard Reich, writes:

The band has been rehearsing since February for the world premiere of Jason Moran’s “Looks of a Lot,” which the admired pianist says he created to perform with the students as “uplift” amid the killings as well as a way of “sharing the pain.” Moran and the young musicians now will play the piece Friday night at Symphony Center with one fewer band member.

For you see, on the afternoon of May 18, the band’s sophomore guitarist, Aaron Rushing, 15, was shot dead about three miles from the school on Chicago’s South Side. Nobody has been charged with any crime in connection with the shooting, and relatives of the deceased have refused to comment on the case.

Jazz band members are in shock, as they encounter reminders every day of Aaron’s absence. But their director, Gerald Powell, now in his 10th year, took note of the coping skills his students have shown: “From a tragic standpoint, man, it’s like, you know, yet again, another kid. They’re dealing with it. But it’s kind of scary, so close to home.”

A Chicago Sun-Times article about the homicide opens with a class assignment Aaron completed while he was still enrolled at the Chicago High School for the Arts. Dividing a paper into “Accomplishments this year” and “Fears,” he wrote under the former, “Stay above 3.0 average … Do homework … Remember what I learn,” and under the latter, he wrote simply, “nun.”

Other classwork included a poem Aaron wrote, describing his thoughts about how people looked at him and his long dreadlocks as he went grocery shopping: “In their eyes, I was a crime bomb, waiting to explode. I had been profiled as a thief, as a resistor of the law, and they didn’t know my name. … I don’t think it was personal.”

That is, even before kids get shot, they still worry inordinately about their own safety, in their own neighborhoods. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to maintain a 3.0 average with thoughts of violence running through his head, but Aaron did that. Change can start by “sharing the pain,” as the song will tell audience members Friday night, but only a community can end the violence and allow schools to get back to the business of schooling.

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.