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Bishop Diego Band Director’s Original Score a Hit with National Program

Beverly VanWingerden’s composition is picked up by the Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project

What began as a favor for a friend has become a published work that will receive national exposure for Bishop Garcia Diego High School band director Beverly VanWingerden.

When VanWingerden was approached by Bishop’s drama director, Jordana Lawrence, about writing a musical score for the school’s upcoming production of Dead Man Walking, she thought, “Why not?!”

Since graduating magna cum laude in 1999 from UCSB with a bachelor’s degree in music, Van Wingerden had been teaching band and doing a little writing for local church groups. She took up the challenge and began composing in late September 2010. The one and only performance took place Dec. 3, marking the first time that Bishop’s band had accompanied a drama or musical production. It was very well-received.

The Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project in Boston was informed that a musical element had been added to Bishop’s production and indicated it was interested in hearing the score. After a demo of various highlights was sent east, Steven Crimaldi, the national coordinator of the DMW School Project, contacted Van Wingerden and asked for permission to use the music in high school and college productions around the country, as well as in Great Britain and other English-speaking European countries.

The score will be posted on the DMW School Project website along with an introduction explaining her inspiration behind the work and suggestions as to how other schools might use it.

The book Dead Man Walking written by Sister Helen Prejean is a true story of violent crime, life in prison and the death penalty. VanWingerden resisted the temptation to view the Academy Award-winning 1995 film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn because she didn’t want to be influenced by that music.

“I wanted it to be completely original” she said.

The film was turned into a stage play by writer/director/actor Tim Robbins in an attempt to foster meaningful dialogue about the death penalty. Click here for more information on the DMW School Theatre Project.

A CD with highlights of the score is available for sale at Bishop Diego for $15, with proceeds benefiting the band program. Email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for more information.

— Ashley Snider is the director of admissions and public relations at Bishop Garcia Diego High School.

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