Connecticut high school teacher makes music class play woke, college-commissioned piece on George Floyd: EXCLUSIVE

Lines from the musical piece include ‘white silence equals violence’ and ‘[w]hatever contracts keep us social compel us now to disorder the disorder.’

The piece was commissioned by the College of New Jersey and other institutions of higher education.

A music class at a public high school in Connecticut is making students perform a college-commissioned piece about George Floyd. 

New Fairfield High School Choral Director Andrew Gadwah is requiring chorus students to practice and perform “Weather: Stand the Storm.” The song’s lyrics, which discuss the death of George Floyd and the ensuing civil unrest during 2020, include phrases such as “white silence equals violence” and “[w]hatever contracts keep us social compel us now to disorder the disorder.”

Another section reads, “Black. Just us and the blues kneeling on a neck with the full weight of a man in blue. Eight minutes and forty-six seconds.”

Various musical elements of the piece also relate to George Floyd, such as the tempo marking of 46 to represent “[t]he age of George Floyd at the time of his death” and metric shifts to represent “the amount of time George Floyd was under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.” 

The song, originally a poem but later set to music, was written by Claudia Rankine, who has served on the faculty of various institutions of higher education.

[RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Police lacked motivation to arrest George Floyd, according to this pro-BLM professor]

Rankine is also a co-founder of the Racial Imaginary Institute, which describes itself as “a multidisciplinary platform engaging with art and scholarship to examine race’s role and impact.” In a 2016 interview with The Guardian titled “why I’m spending $625,000 to study whiteness,” Rankine said she hoped the institute would be a “space which allows us to show art, to curate dialogues, have readings, and talk about the ways in which the structure of white supremacy in American society influences our culture.” 

The College of New Jersey and various other higher education institutions helped commission “Weather,” which was set to music by composer and Temple University professor Rollo Dilworth.

The piece is set to be performed by the students at an April concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

New Fairfield alumnus and Campus Reform correspondent Mason Cipriani contacted Greg Flanagan and Susan Huwer, members of New Fairfield’s Board of Education, to inform them of the song selection. Flanagan expressed shock, writing, “So you are telling me the chorus will be singing these lyrics?! I have a very hard time believing that.” 

Cipriani received no response from Huwer, and no known action has been taken by the board at this time.

“As a graduate of New Fairfield Highschool, it sickens me that the first year in the brand new building started off so poorly,” Cipriani told Campus Reform. “At the end of the day, it’s about education not indoctrination. Don’t shove things down people’s [sic] throat.”

Gadwah also received an email expressing concern on behalf of students who criticized the song as “insensitive and mocking.”

“We also brought attention [sic] that during our class discussion on Tuesday we felt very dismissed after airing our honest feelings about the song to you,” the email reads. “We are uncomfortable because of the song and how you are going about teaching it.”

[RELATED: Prof blames ‘white Christian nationalism’ for death of George Floyd]

“We would be more than willing to have another class discussion but we will not be dismissed by our opinions and feelings towards this song. Thank you for taking the time to read this and hopefully we can have a beneficial discussion together to make a change that we are all comfortable with,” the email concluded. 

Gadwah responded to the email expressing his apologies and saying: “If you feel like I am being dismissive and not listening to you, please call me out! Right there in the moment! It is much better to talk it out like that than to let negative thoughts stew and simmer.” He also stated that students in other classes have voiced similar complaints. 

He noted that by presenting the musical work “in chunks,” it left out context, so he provided a YouTube video of a performance of the work in which its background is explained. 

Speaking of the video, Gadwah said, “Somethings [sic] to note: the students performing (choir and orchestra) are of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds - in fact, it looks quite a bit like how we look here in New Fairfield!”

Despite noting that there would be an “ongoing conversation” about the musical work, Gadwah did not indicate that he would be changing the decision to perform it.

Campus Reform has reached out to Claudia Rankine, Rollo Dilworth, Andrew Gadwah, New Fairfield’s Board of Education, and New Fairfield’s principal James D’Amico for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

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