Keep Moving Forward is a piece for combined concert band, orchestra. and choir. After the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Sam Berns, our collective grief pushed us to honor him through music. Thus, we asked Mark Miller to compose a piece that represented Sam’s life.
Mr. Miller astoundingly was able to complete the fantastic piece in a mere two months and we have had only about four weeks to prepare it. After extensively studying Sam’s own words along with our thoughts on Sam, Mr. Miller was able to truly capture Sam’s spirit and character in the work. In fact. the title of the piece is taken from Sam’s own words and serves as a pillar in his philosophy for a happy life. The tempo of the piece constantly increases, representing Sam’s “moving forward” attitude. The piece is joyful as we sought to represent Sam’s life. not the grief we felt in his passing. We even get to party a little. as Sam always advised us to never miss a party if we could help it. As a music department, this piece has helped us cope with the loss of our friend by making a piece of art that we think Sam would be proud of. We think he would have loved to play this piece, and in a way, feel that he is playing it with us. We hope that our performance demonstrates our love for Sam and reminds you of how truly amazing he was. We love you. Sam.
– The FHS Music Department
A Note from the Composer
I was not privileged to know Sam Berns personally. I knew who he was. I saw him at concerts and rehearsals. and I realized what his condition must be, but I never had any personal contact wit h him. That he was accepted and respected by his peers in the music programs was a given – that is the character of students and faculty in the department. It was only after his death that I came to know how deeply he had touched their lives. When Mr. Massey asked me to write a work in Sam’s memory, I started with his TED talk. He was certa inly fearless and eloquent. but not a poet; his words were not going to make a songful text. His ideas. though. resonated. in particular his adoption of Walt Disney’s unofficial motto “keep moving forward.” I spoke to Sam’s friends. and read some of the student testimonials. and it became more clear that his was an upbeat. forward looking personality that probably wouldn’t be served by a slow, sad elegy of a piece. As I remarked to one of his friends. I had decided not to write a memorial but instead to write the kind of piece I thought Sam might have enjoyed playing.
“Keep Moving Forward” is not a portrait of Sam or his condition. It is a piece of music based on his life philosophy, his enthusiasm. and the sp irit of inclusion and solidarity his classmates showed him. Since Sam’s determination to play snare drum in the marching band was so important to him that he chose to share it with millions. I made the snare drum (and the whole percussion section) central to “Keep Moving Forward;” the chorus for the most part gets to be its own percussion section. The piece never looks backwards; every change of tempo is for the faster. Ultimately, everyone is swept into the percussion section and everyone has a chance to be a snare drummer in a noisy call and response. after which there is a rhythmic. boisterous and loud celebration. I especially enjoyed a student ‘s comment about Sam that he was determined to never miss a party. I hope I’ve given him a pretty good party here, and that we can all revel in his own call to keep moving forward.
A highlight of this year’s Pops concert will be the premiere of a piece of music commissioned in memory of percussionist Sam Berns, who died of complications of the rare aging disease, Progeria, in January. Berns, a junior who started playing drums as a young child, was an outstanding student, an avid sports fan and excelled in music.
The song, “Keep Moving Forward,” was written by Mark Miller, a private clarinet teacher who gives lessons to Foxboro music students. It is inspired by Berns’ memorable and moving speech last October at the TEDx Mid-Atlantic Conference in Washington, D.C. during which he describes his philosophy on how to live a happy life and to keep moving forward.
“This new piece of music is built on that idea to keep moving forward,” said Band Secretary Molly Ketchum. “It’s a piece Sam would enjoy playing. It turns everyone in the band into a snare drum. It’s a challenging piece of music that will be performed by the band, choir and orchestra simultaneously. It starts slow, but picks up pace as the song moves forward.”
Senior Brooke Dudek is quick to note, “It’s not a solemn piece of music, but more of a celebration,”
It usually takes at least a year or two to commission a piece of music, but all the students are extremely grateful to Miller for composing the song in only two months time.
The program for each performance will vary; however, “Keep Moving Forward” will be introduced for the first time to the public on Saturday evening and will be performed again on Sunday afternoon.