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Fronteras: Spurred by a tragic mass shooting, El Paso musicians came together to help its community heal

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The Walmart mass shooting on Aug. 3, 2019 brought the tight-knit border community of El Paso even closer together.

Millions of dollars were raised for survivors and victims’ families, #ElPasoStrong went viral around the world, a large candela installation pays tribute to the victims outside the Walmart and a healing garden was officially dedicated this year.

The massacre also resulted in one of the biggest artist collaborations in the city’s history. The El Paso Symphony Orchestra, the University of Texas at El Paso Music Department, El Paso Opera, and the chamber music organization El Paso Pro-Musica joined together to produce the El Paso Requiem. It was commissioned by a new nonprofit also birthed out of the tragedy, Communities for Peace.

“The #ElPasoStrong came about because of that shooting and we are stronger together than we are apart or as individuals, and that certainly is the case for the El Paso arts organizations involved in this project,” said Steve Wilson, chairman of the UTEP Department of Music. “We just demonstrated when we work together as a team, we can accomplish really great things, and I think the piece is beautiful.”

Elisa Wilson, director of choral activities at UTEP, also spearheaded the project. The October performance featured original music by Cuban-American composer Jorge Martín and was led by music director and conductor of the El Paso Symphony Orchestra, Bohuslav Rattay.

The belief in music’s healing capabilities was a cathartic release to not only honor the 23 lives lost, but also from the tragedy being bookended by more than a year of isolation from the pandemic.

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Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren