HVRHS students receive national honors for historical songwriting

Students at Housatonic Valley Regional High School perform their songs that won national recognition this year. On left, Manny Matsudaira of Cornwall and Kyle McCarron of Kent sing ‘Blessed is He.’ On right, Andy Delgado, Katelin Lopes, and Tess Marks perform the ‘Battle of Trenton.’

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HVRHS students receive national honors for historical songwriting

FALLS VILLAGE—Two different student teams from Housatonic Valley Regional High School have won national recognition for blending their historical knowledge with songwriting.

The five students, who are all juniors, presented their award-winning songs Monday to the Region 1 Board of Education. The songs were created for a contest offered by the Hamilton Online Education Program, sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Kyle McCarron, Manny Matsudaira, Andy Delgado, Katelin Lopes, and Tess Marks all worked with Peter Vermilyea, chairman of the Social Studies Department at HVRHS, as well as music teacher Thomas Krupa in the song creation.

“Students use primary source documents to write a song in the style of Hamilton the musical, to capture the essence of a person, an event or a theme in American history,” Vermilyea told the board. Ten groups from around the country were chosen as competition winners and our school had two of them.”

The students won an all-expense trip to New York City to spend three days and two nights. They and will see “Hamilton the Musical” on Broadway, have a Q and A with the cast, and get a behind-the-scenes tour of the Museum of Broadway.

The students explained how they used primary source documents for the lyrics of their song and blended together traditional melodies with rap sections.

Marks, Lopes and Delgado spoke about their song, the “Battle of Trenton” in which they chose “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine and a letter by Henry Knox that he wrote to his wife, Lucy.

“We used those sources to pull out information about the battle and be truthful in our song, but we also took specific lines from each and put them into our song,” explained Marks.

Lopes said the song follows a path from a melody, into a rap and then back into a melody.

“This signifies the Battle of Trenton and the somber beginning of it to the exciting win for the Army and back into its melody,” Lopes said.

A video of the song can be seen here.

The other group of McCarron and Matsudaira created “Blessed is He” and they said they wanted to focus on the Native Americans and their struggles with the Revolutionary War.

“We focused on the Battle of Oriskany. We used letters from Philip Schuyler and letters from a Shinnecock tribe,” explained Matsudaira. “We used those two as alternating opinions on the matter and creating a song out of it. We also used hymnals from the time period as the melody of our song.”

McCarron said that his group also used the melody-rap-melody pattern. The melody was the Native American’s plea and the rap was the argument between the Shinnecock tribes and the Army.

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