This summer, NYFA Harvard students from around the world had collaborated and performed in a unique and empowering music video project as part of NYFA’s musical theatre workshops. Performing their own vocals in a cover of Sia’s powerful ballad “Bird Set Free,” students created a piece that celebrates the diverse voices and in our international community, as well as the liberating power of the visual and performing arts.
NYFA Musical Theatre Instructor Bobby Cronin led the music video project, which is as a part of the NYFA curriculum he developed alongside Musical Theatre Chair Mark Olsen and Shani Patel to help students gain insight into the potential power of musical storytelling in film as well as live theatre.
“I was blown away by the message the first time I heard the song,” said Bobby, “and I’d since been yearning to use the song in an educational environment. Once I met the students at the New York Film Academy’s summer program at Harvard, I knew this would be the song for our music video.”
The group brainstormed together, and Bobby suggested the idea of using paper signs to represent an important battle each student felt they had struggled with individually, and the students loved it.
“We then worked with NYFA’s Shaun Clark who was the DP/cinematographer on the project,” said Bobby. “He was very inspired by our ideas and pitched using videos like [Sinead O’Connor’s] ‘Nothin’ Compares 2 U’ as reference — close shots that give the inner turmoil of the artist. We then discussed that the song is about breaking free of these turmoils, and the idea to use black and white (darkness) transitioning into color (light) became the metaphor for our video.”
The message of Sia’s song resonated especially with the burgeoning musical theatre performers. Some of the lyrics include:
“I don’t care if I sing off key
I find myself in my melodies
I sing for love
I sing for me
I shout it out
Like a bird set free…”
The students learned the song under the guidance of musical director William Demaniow, in an arrangement created by Bobby. After recording the song with professional equipment, the faculty and student collaborators filmed the music video, which was poignantly edited by Elise Ahrens.
“I wanted this video to represent the world we live in today and the dream I have of us all co-existing as a human race,” said Bobby. “And, how as an artist, it is of the utmost importance to create from your soul.”