By: Megan Roche
Al Cerulo, first year music teacher at Hopatcong Middle School, has felt the need to get creative during the coronavirus. Cerulo, who has been teaching for over 15 years, wanted to elicit his own creativity while staying true to himself.
“Music is communal, everything about music is communal. Not only am I a teacher, but I want to help my students keep some sort of normal in their lives. I love teaching and it’s a stressful time for everybody. Times are stressful for the kids. I wanted to try to figure out a way to help them make education a priority,” Cerulo said.
The musician turned educator wrote a poem entitled “We Are…” one evening while sitting at home with his wife and two sons. While he has been distance teaching his instrumental music students, he wanted a creative way to get them involved. Sending them the poem, he instructed them on how to read it and how to angle their camera so they could record themselves reading it.
“I try to wear many hats as a person. I’m a teacher, husband, father, and also an artist/musician. As artists in the world, when we come to something like this, we need to express our feelings. When all of this happened, it was hard for us as musicians to express the things going on. I perform a lot outside of teaching and all of that just immediately stopped. We needed some sort of outlet to express this new sense of grief. I wanted to feed the world with some positivity,” Cerulo said.
While he wrote the poem, he also composed the music that goes along with it in the music video. Cerulo has noted that since the video debuted, he has received countless calls and messages from parents and fellow teachers about how truly touching it was.
“The poem project came together really nicely. It was a nice, positive product. From the reactions I’ve been getting, the kids are really proud of it and they think it’s great. The reaction from the parents is that they are realizing there will be hope as we get through this. The kids were happy to be part of something, but the parents and grandparents are seeing the bigger picture and it’s pouring out of them. I was touched because I really didn’t think it was going to be this big thing,” Cerulo said.
On May 4, Governor Murphy issued a statement that schools would remain closed throughout the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Although the news is disheartening, Cerulo hopes that his poem and video can remind people to stay positive during these dark times.
“We have all these people putting out positive content from famous people to local organizations. I just wanted to be a part of that positivity. The kids are going to be the ones who get through this and they will be the ones to change the future. As artists, we have this need to be creative and present something to make people feel a certain way. Sometimes that reaction is positive, it can make people think, or it produces a negative reaction. It was nice that I can give people a moment away from the negativity and to step away for a brief moment and just smile,” Cerulo said.
The video can be viewed at https://youtu.be/2NAT-0FJJ8E.