The Black String Triage Ensemble is a group of classical musicians who play music at Milwaukee crime scenes after the law enforcement teams have left.
But their mission is so much greater than you can imagine.
Their website states the purpose of this group of musicians as such: “The Black String Triage Ensemble is committed to using music as the healing force for the soul in the immediate aftermath of community violence. The Black String Triage Ensemble plays concerts, for the community at the scene of the incident.”
“It’s not necessarily so much for the family of the victims; that healing trajectory is a much longer arc of time,” Black String Triage Ensemble founder Daybin Hallmon told WISN.
“But for everyone else in the neighborhood—people who live next door, down the street, maybe there’s somebody who owns a store—everybody that’s in that space is somehow devastated in some way by this impact. So there has to be something that sweeps that away, sweeps those ashes away, so they don’t carry them home.”
The orchestra consists of members of the community who are directly affected by these crimes, and are a group of violin, viola, cello, and upright/double bass players from the city and county of Milwaukee. The Black String Triage Ensemble is open to any and all Black or Latinx string players regardless of age and regardless of playing ability.
“By being present among the people and playing music at a time when it is need the most, we can transform the public space into a place of recovery, healing and hope for the community.”
Why Black and Latinx String Players?
Not all, but most of the victims of shootings in Milwaukee are black or Latinx people. In modern life it is rare to come across a black string player. To come across a group of black string players is even more of a rarity. For the first 250 years in America, it was extremely commonplace for Black Americans to play stringed instruments.
Many households that had slaves, had at least one slave who was skilled on an instrument-usually the violin. In the era after the Civil War, string bands consisting of violins, violas, cellos, basses, and banjos were very popular in America. In today’s America, string instruments are highly tied into associations with education and social class. They are expensive instruments to procure. Expensive to repair and a person, typically in most cases, needs a teacher. So it is not something that can be learned on one’s own.
The website explains that they use string instruments for a variety of important reasons.
Violin, Viola, Cello and the Bass are instruments whose sound waves are the closest to the human voice. Also, each of these instruments has its own mature personality in ways that woodwinds and brass instruments do not.
Throughout the summer, The Black String Triage Ensemble designates weekends of its choosing to be “On Call” to respond to shootings that occurred in the Milwaukee community. This ensemble is the first of its kind anywhere in the world.
“The feelings of rage, sadness, and despair can only be touched by coming into contact with them. Physically touching those emotions is impossible with the human hand. Music is medicine for the mind, body and soul.”