An excited but respectful group of sixth grade chorus and concert choir members crowded onto risers in the practice room at Reed Intermediate School (RIS) on Tuesday, November 26, the first of multiple sessions of music teacher Michelle Tenenbaum’s fifth and sixth graders to meet with the Connecticut-based indie rock band Alternate Routes.
Led by founding band members Tim Warren and Eric Donnelly, Alternate Routes was at the school for a run-through of their original song, “Nothing More,” which they will perform with the students at the January winter concerts.
“There is a strong connection between this song and our school,” Ms Tenenbaum shared with the band, prompting one of her students to recite the announcement heard at the end of each school day, “Please be kind to each other.”
“Nothing More” was originally written by Mr Warren for Newtown Kindness, an organization founded by the family of Charlotte Bacon, who died 12/14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The mission of the foundation, according to its website, is “to promote kindness as a guiding principle of humanity.” Half of the proceeds from the sales of “Nothing More” on iTunes support Newtown Kindness.
The song was designed to mirror the motives of Newtown Kindness, Mr Warren said in an e-mail to The Bee, “which is to promote, inspire, and encourage acts of kindness.”
The chorus of the song, “We are love, we are one / We are how we treat each other when the day is done / We are peace, we are war / We are how we treat each other and nothing more,” are Mr Warren’s reflection on celebrating what it means to be kind to oneself and others. “Putting those words in people’s minds, and celebrating them is the reason we wrote the song. There is kindness, and there is everything else. Choose kindness every time, and practice makes perfect,” he said.
On Tuesday, practice was leaning toward perfect, and inspiration ran high as the students and band rehearsed and shared thoughts on how best to present the piece at the winter concert. Following an introduction of Mr Warren, Mr Donnelly, and band members Ian Tait on bass and Kurt Leon on percussion, the RIS singers jumped right into their rendition of “Nothing More,” as if recording with touring professionals was an everyday occurrence for them.
“This is cool for us,” said Mr Warren. “You did great!”
The half-hour practice sessions with each section of students did not leave a lot of time for questions, but the band did have a chance to field a few of them.
“How many songs do you have?” asked one sixth grader. Mr Donnelly and Mr Warren briefly conferred, agreeing that in the course of the nearly ten years they have been together, they have written between 50 and 70 songs. How they came up with the lyrics to “Nothing More” was a question put to Alternate Routes, as well.
“Eric [Donnelly] came up to me with an idea for the song. He played the chorus, pretty much as it is today. We just cooked it up that day,” Mr Warren told the students, “and it really hasn’t changed that much.”
Another student was curious about how much Mr Warren, the lead singer and guitarist, practiced when he was in sixth grade. He was always in the choir, he responded, but did not actually pick up guitar until he was a junior in high school. “The guys behind me,” he said, indicating the other band members, “practiced for thousands and thousands of hours to get this good.”
As to how the band came by its name, Mr Warren told of a rainy vacation that kept them indoors. “When we finally ventured out, there was a flooded road and a homemade sign ‘Seek Alternate Routes.’ That stuck with me, because the music business is a crazy business. Our band would have to do whatever we could to be noticed. An alternate route is a way to go when the obvious way is blocked,” he said.
Also present at the sessions on November 26 was Linda Sobo, composer of “One Candle, One Flame,” a song that has practically become an anthem for kindness in the winter season among elementary school choirs. “In a world full of darkness, in a world full of pain / All it takes is a sparkle, all it takes is a flame / To make joy out of sadness, to bring hope to a life / Like the promise of the dawn / On a long winter’s night,” reads the first verse of Ms Sobo’s song.
The RIS singers will perform this song, as well, at the winter concerts. Their rehearsal of the piece was met by applause from Ms Sobo and Alternate Routes.
Sixth grade student Jane Shearin pronounced the session, “Really fun,” as she left the rehearsal. She had not heard of Alternate Routes before Ms Tenenbaum introduced the piece to the chorus, said Jane. “When I found out we were singing ‘Nothing More,’ I watched the music video,” she said. “It was so much fun today!”
“The entire band was really honored to be included,” Mr Warren said, “and we were really impressed with Michelle’s enthusiasm and how well the kids knew the song. It was a great day for us all around.”
To listen to “Nothing More” visit www.thealternateroutes.com.