Princeton Jazz Professor Composes ‘Ballad for Trayvon Martin’

Ronni Reich, The Star-Ledger, December 4, 2013

When Anthony D.J. Branker heard about Trayvon Martin, he could not help but think of an experience he had in his early 20s, just after graduating from Princeton University.

“I was stopped by police at gunpoint because it was believed I broke into someone’s home,” he said. “I fit a profile. Police surrounded my car.”

Branker, who celebrates his 25th anniversary this year as founder and director of the program in jazz studies at Princeton, has composed a piece of music that draws on Martin’s story, which he said “moved me to the core.”

“Ballad for Trayvon Martin for Orchestra and Jazz Quartet,” written in honor of the 17-year-old who was shot in 2012 in Sanford, Fla., by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman, will receive its world premiere tomorrow.

Anthony Branker

Anthony Branker

The Princeton University Orchestra and the University Concert Jazz Ensemble will perform the work on a program that also includes Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, Beethoven’s “Egmont” overture and a world premiere of “Teatro di Strada” by David Sanford. Conducted by Michael Pratt, with senior J.J. Warshaw leading the Beethoven, the concert will take place in the Richardson Auditorium and will be repeated Friday.

According to Branker, the work is intended “to be a form of healing and something that could be seen as a composition of hope — one that speaks to all of us to continue to work together so that children of any race, ethnicity or religious affiliation never have to meet such a tragic end.”


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