Moses Brown School was sad to learn of the passing of songwriter and folk music legend Pete Seeger. His music inspired many of us, students and faculty/staff alike. Longtime faculty member Mary Pollart, lower school music, shared an amazing MB memory this morning:
On Saturday, April 27, 2002, MB’s lower school chorus sang with Pete Seeger at a HEALING AND ACTION AFTER SEPTEMBER 11 – PATHS TO PEACE, JUSTICE AND SECURITY conference at Rhode Island College. Past trustee/parent Debbie Block (wife of Bill, mother of Noah and Dylan) was an organizer for the concert event, a benefit for the newly reopened American Friends Service Committee office. Paul Lindenmaier was the head of lower school at that time.
Seeger wrote a special song for this event, “Take It From Dr. King”, which Moses Brown students, along with the MLK Elementary School chorus, sang at the conference. Seeger wrote the song as a challenge to people to choose peace over violence. He hoped young people would teach it to grown-ups and that it would be sung on Martin Luther King Day. Later, the song became an anti-Iraq War anthem and was a song Seeger performed leading up to the 2008 presidential election.
Before the event, Seeger met with the two student choruses to talk about the history of his peace journey and especially about his interaction with MLK and other peacemakers and protesters. “This was an exciting and powerful meeting!” Mary recalls. “The children and the other chorus director and I were absolutely mesmerized by his stories.”
Mary was joined that day by former faculty member John Quinn, her chorus helper at the time. In the years since, they have spoken often about this shared experience. Mary even emailed John today at Cambridge Friends in Boston (where he now teaches kindergarten) to reminisce about their visit with the musical icon. “It was an amazing experience!” says Mary.
Shown here are Seeger’s notes about the song he wrote for the MB and MLK students, along with the music, as well as a letter from Seeger to Debbie Block in his own handwriting.