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Art helps heal families torn by Newtown shooting

NEWTOWN, Connecticut/NEW YORK -- When 6-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre almost a year ago, her father, a professional jazz musician, stopped playing his saxophone.

When he could bring himself to pick it up again a month later, Jimmy Greene felt his emotional wounds start to heal and, within months, he recorded an album celebrating his daughter's life. It is one of several works of art that have risen from the depths of loss and grief at Newtown.

Creative expression helps express the unspeakable — shock, loss, sorrow — when other means fail, experts say.

For some Newtown residents, the arts have provided a way to go on with their lives after the death of their loved ones when a young gunman killed 20 children and six adults at the school on Dec. 14, 2012.

The parents of 6-year-old Emilie Parker, a first-grader who died along with her classmates, created the Emilie Parker Art Connection to support community and school arts programs.

Children who survived the shooting recorded a charity single of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” with the help of former new wave band Talking Heads members Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, who live nearby.

Local composer Julie Lyonn Lieberman wrote a “Newtown Peace Anthem” for young string players.

Greene, who has recorded nine solo albums and played with jazz stars including Harry Connick, Jr., and Freddie Hubbard, and also teaches music at Western Connecticut State University, said his spirits improved after he resumed playing his horn.

“I picked up my instrument one day and felt much better. I felt like I was myself,” Greene said. “I realized that music is a big part of who I am and the more I played, the more like myself I felt. In the time I didn't play, I kind of lost sense of myself in a way.

“Music is what I've always done,” he said. “It just naturally follows that music would be in times of joy, in times of grief, in times of whatever. Music is a way of expression.”

Greene said he created his new album “Beautiful Life” with his 9-year-old son in mind as well as his daughter. Isaiah was also at Sandy Hook the day of the shooting but was not injured.

“I don't pretend to know what perspective he will put this in 10 years from now,” his father said. “But what I do hope is that he realizes that 'You know what? My Mom and Dad, they worked very hard to honor my sister.'”

Greene said he hopes his album will be released early next year.

“I feel very blessed to have music as a means of expression,” he said. “It is helpful in ways dealing with the grief and the loss, the pain and the sadness that I deal with every day.”

Tapping Deep Emotions

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