The emotional effect of one 26-year-old man opening fire on a community college campus in Oregon, that left 10 people dead and seven wounded, prompted action from students on Baylor’s campus Friday.
Members of the Baylor Symphony Orchestra organized and performed a spontaneous rendition of the famous Christian hymn “Amazing Grace” at the center of Fountain Mall early Friday afternoon, in memory of the shooting in Oregon on Thursday.
“We have to sing for them. We have to play for them. We have to represent their hearts – those who are suffering.” – Houston senior James Tabata
The conductor and organizer of the performance, Houston senior James Tabata, closed the performance with a prayer in front of several students that had stopped to listen on their commutes between classes.
The performance was not done as a political statement, the members said. Rather, it was done as a gesture of mourning and an act of moral obligation to honor those that were killed, wounded or hurt in any way from the shooting, Tabata said.
“We can all agree the tragedy yesterday was terrible,” Tabata said. “No one ever desire such a thing to happen, except for a madman. This has happened so many times – over forty times this year. People have lost lives and lost loved ones. We need no more of that.”
Tabata rallied a handful of his fellow Baylor symphony orchestra members in less than an hour Friday morning, starting at 11:05 a.m with an email from Tabata to the members.
“It’s becoming more and more of an issue, and if we don’t say something, we’re never going to get the message out.” – Louisiana junior Emily Owens
“As musicians, we have a spiritual responsibility, a spiritual role to respond to the tragedies throughout the world,” Tabata said. “We have to sing for them. We have to play for them. We have to represent their hearts – those who are suffering. We’re all broken by it. The least we could do is come, make a joyous sound and praise what we have left.”
Tabata entered a class in progress and told his peers about his plans to lead a performance of “Amazing Grace” on campus. From that class, Tabata pulled many of the students in that class to play later that afternoon on Fountain Mall.
“James came into the class and said that we were all going to get together at noon and that if we were available to come play,” Benton, La. junior Emily Owens said. “Hearing the story of the shooting earlier, I felt called to play.”
The professor of the class, was welcoming and encouraging of Tabata’s plan, San Antonio senior Nathan Dowling said. Dowling played viola with the group on Fountain Mall Friday afternoon.
“It’s moving for us too, as musicians and also as Christians,” Owens said. “It’s really a joy and a blessing to be able to share that with other people. Seeing reactions from other people – people stop and watch or they start recording – it means that we’re making an impact in their life. That’s what makes it worth it for me because it speaks to me, but I’m also helping others through what I’m doing.”
Music comforts people in times of pain, Dowling said. Owens agreed with Dowling and shared her personal convictions on the many shootings in the U.S. this year as well as her reason for performing Friday afternoon. It was much more than a regular performance, Owens said.
“It kind of baffles me that there’s so much hatred in the world,” Owens said. “It’s becoming more and more of an issue, and if we don’t say something, we’re never going to get the message out.”