Cookeville Compsoser's New Work Remembers Children of War

Later this month, American children will sing composer Robert Jager's "I Dream of Peace," but other children's war-torn shouts will be the loudest sounds.

Jager, a Tennessee Technological University music professor, wrote the children's choral and orchestra piece to honor children of the former Yugoslavia. The Cumberland Children's Chorus, along with an orchestra and other children, will premiere Jager's work Feb. 28 at a Southern Division American Choral Directors Association convention in Charleston, S.C.

"Choral music often is written as a reaction to specific atrocities. My music was inspired by a UNICEF book containing drawings, letters and poems from schools and refugee camps in the former Yugoslavia," explained Jager.

In the book, thousands of children revealed their hopes and fears in the face of war's death and destruction. One child pleaded, "I do not want to grow old while still just a child." The voices jumped from the pages, inspiring the composer.

"The children's voices caught in war will come alive through children who have never known war. The power of music will bring hopes and dreams alive," Jager said.

Linda Ferreira and Mitzi Groom, Tennessee Tech music education faculty members, also have contributed to Jager's work. Ferreira and Groom were organizers of the ACDA's Balkan Project, inspired by war images Ferreira saw in the Balkans. The women requested Jager write "I Dream of Peace" specifically for the 1998 convention.

Ferreira and Groom direct the award-winning Cumberland Children's Chorus, a program open to Upper Cumberland singers grades 3-12. The chorus, the Cumberland Woodwind Quintet and Bryan Symphony Orchestra director John Dodson will participate in the work's premiere.

In December, 200 Tennessee school children performed an excerpt of "I Dream of Peace." Many of these children, plus those who perform at the convention, will write responses to the children's expressions in the UNICEF book.