Healing power of music helps those touched by Newtown tragedy

Jennifer Hudson singing “America the Beautiful” with the Sandy Hook Elementary School choir before the Super Bowl.
Brian Snyder /REUTERS
Jennifer Hudson singing “America the Beautiful” with the Sandy Hook Elementary School choir before the Super Bowl.

HARTFORD — When 6-year-old Dylan Hockley was memorialized at a service following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, his parents were especially moved by one song.

A writer, Dushyanthi Satchi, had reworked the lyrics to the Leonard Cohen song ‘‘Hallelujah,’’ from Dylan’s favorite movie, ‘‘Shrek.’’

‘‘That one thing — that song — has been quite healing for us,’’ Nicole Hockley, Dylan’s mother, said Thursday.


There have been many musical tributes to the victims of the Dec. 14 tragedy, some put on by world famous performers, others by local musicians and many involving the children of Newtown.

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Professional football players were on the verge of tears when a group of 26 children who escaped the Newtown shooting, including Dylan’s older brother, Jake, joined Jennifer Hudson at the Super Bowl to sing ‘‘America the Beautiful.’’ They also will perform before the Grammy Awards this weekend.

‘‘Humans have used music in healing forever,’’ said Jane Matson, the choral director at Newtown High School. ‘‘It expresses our feelings and gets emotion out in a way that’s constructive and beautiful.’’

That’s why Sabrina Post brought students from her performing arts school in Newtown to the nearby home recording studio of former Talking Head and TomTom Club band members Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, where they recorded a version of ‘‘Over the Rainbow’’ with folk singer Ingrid Michaelson.

Post said she wanted to show the children they could make a difference.


‘‘One little girl, her neighbor died,’’ she said. ‘‘And she said she thinks of her as singing with us when she sings.’’

The song rose to No. 12 on iTunes and to No. 2 on, said Tim Hayes, who coproduced the recording.

The children have been asked to perform this Sunday for the E! Network’s Grammy Awards preshow, a segment that will air from Newtown. They also sang last month during a two-day concert event at the Ridgefield Playhouse, where other performers included Johnny Winters, Paul Shaffer and Paul Simon, who also sang at the funeral of Newtown teacher Victoria Soto.

Hayes said the children will do no other events after Sunday. ‘‘We want these kids to get back to being kids,’’ he said.

This Sunday, a free concert will be held in Ridgefield. Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary fame helped organize the event after speaking with the family of Ben Wheeler, one of the children who died.


‘‘My intuition is this community needs an event that brings music and a tone of caring, healing and togetherness,” Yarrow said. “We need to let them know they are not alone in a way that is helpful to them.’’