The University of Alabama

Song of Hope Springs from Enterprise Tragedy

Ken Ozzello, UA director of bands, initiated the 'Enterprise' project. (photo by Zach Riggins)

Ken Ozzello, UA director of bands, initiated the 'Enterprise' project. (photo by Zach Riggins)

By Linda Hill

As a way to express human emotion, music can say it all without saying a word.

The powerful feeling that music can provide is the impetus behind a new, commissioned piece of music from UA to honor and remember victims of the devastating tornado that slammed through Enterprise on March 1.

Eight students were killed at Enterprise High School when the F4 storm hit early in the afternoon and a hallway roof collapsed. The tragedy has been described as the worst disaster in Enterprise history.

The commissioned music is simply named Enterprise, says Ken Ozzello, UA director of bands, who initiated the project. Ozzello and others behind the music hope that it will provide healing and hope for those directly affected in the Enterprise community and others across the state.

“I was thinking why not use the musical talent at the Capstone to contribute something unique to that situation. I think that’s the reason we have music – it’s a means of communicating emotions – all the arts do that,” Ozzello says.

Each year, the UA School of Music takes on a commissioning project to add to the body of ‘wind literature.’ “That’s a name for music written for bands,” Ozzello says. “Bands use only wind and percussion. Orchestras use strings as well. The repertoire for string orchestras is hundreds of years old and very vast, while the repertoire for bands is much smaller. One of our more important objectives in the wind band world is to add to the body of quality literature.”

Enterprise is commissioned through the office of UA Provost Judy Bonner and supported through the UA Creative Campus program, under the auspices of Drs. Hank Lazer and Scott Bridges.

Plans are under way for Enterprise to premiere at UA in January 2008 during the Alabama State Music Convention. Families and students from Enterprise will be invited to the UA performance. The music will be performed again in Enterprise on or close to March 1.

UA students in the Alabama Wind Ensemble and the University Singers will start rehearsing Enterprise this semester.

Helping Enterprise Heal

Of the eight students killed in the Enterprise tornado, five were music department students – two in the band and three in the choir.

Before anything was done on the Enterprise project, Ozzello said the first thing he did was to call Charlie Ford, Enterprise High School director of bands. “I called to make sure the idea was OK with the parents of the students and citizens in the area. They were very gracious that we were considering this project,” Ozzello said.

Enterprise will include both music and lyrics, representative of the students who were in the band and the choir. Lyrics will include quotes from a poem published in the Enterprise High School Year Book and from Amazing Grace and Carry On, a popular song with the Enterprise students.

Ford says the response from Enterprise to Enterprisehas been positive. “I think this project is a wonderful idea. Of course, many people do not even understand what it means to commission a piece of music. But, just the fact that The University of Alabama is doing something in remembrance of what we all have been through has generated a great deal of appreciation from everyone.”

Making the Music

Making a piece of music that will have longevity is one of the goals of Ozzello, who will conduct the performance of Enterprise, and Ira Hearshen, a musician based in Los Angeles, Calif., who is bringing together music and lyrics as composer.

“It’s an honor to be part of this project. The people in Alabama were so courteous and friendly to me. I’m going to do my best to achieve a kind of worldly explanation in the piece,” said Hearshen, who traveled to Alabama to meet Ozzello and Ford in Tuscaloosa.

Hearshen, who has a background in Hollywood music, said he hopes the seven-minute piece will serve as a healing experience and Ford agreed.

“This tragedy has shown all of us here in Enterprise that there is still a great deal of good in the world,” said Ford. “I know the end result of this project will go a long way in helping our school and even the community to move forward in a positive and hopeful manner.”