Bryson Zachary of Urbana was in his psychology class at Urbana High School when he first heard the news that 20 first-grade students and six staff members had been gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“I was just shocked,” Bryson said. “I just kept thinking that could happen anywhere.”
Now, the 17-year-old aspiring rap artist is hoping to bring some comfort to the families who lost loved ones in the shooting with a song.
Bryson, who goes by the stage name “Brey,” said he wrote, produced and recorded “Newtown (Our Town),” a song reflecting on the tragedy, in two days.
Proceeds from the three-and-a-half-minute song are being donated to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund, a fund created by the Newtown Savings Bank and the United Way of Western Connecticut to provide services to victims’ families and the community, Bryson said. The song, which was released Dec. 26, is available for download for $1 at teambrey.bandcamp.com and on iTunes.
Bryson, a junior at Urbana High School, has been rapping for about three years. He has recorded about 300 songs, 30 of which he has released to the public on his website.
But he said “Newtown (Our Town)” has special meaning to him.
“One of the main ideas that I tried to capture in the song is that you don’t know what to do [or] what to say when a tragedy like this happens,” he said. “We have to come together and support a nation that is going through a loss like [this].”
Bryson, who has six younger sisters ranging in age from 9 years old to less than 2 weeks old, said he was motivated to write the song on Christmas Eve, 10 days after the shooting.
“It just hit me that those families aren’t going to be with those little kids,” he said. “I would have been devastated if that had been one of my siblings.... I just thought I needed to do something to help out.”
Bryson raps, “Last night I broke down and cried, thinking about those lives some of those kids were only five. I have a sister that’s not much bigger....”
“I think America needs a moment to mourn. I think America needs a little reform,” it continues later.
“He has very good intentions,” said James Du Rell, Brey’s manager. “I’m very excited to see where this goes.”
Along with Bryson, the song also features vocals by singer Bianca Sirgany Castro, 18, a former Urbana High School student, who now lives in Miami, Fla.
Castro, who goes by the stage name “Bianca Jade,” is a student at Miami-Dade College, where she was running on a treadmill at the school’s gym when she first saw news coverage about the shooting.
“It was really scary just seeing it,” she said. “The idea of all those young kids not being able to live life, there’s so much that they won’t be able to experience....”
Castro and Bryson had also worked on several songs together previously.
“I think the whole incident with Newtown is a very powerful moment in our nation,” she said. “Everyone is feeling pain.... [The song] is something to remind us that we are all one community, and it’s not just Newtown in this; we are all in this together.”
Bryson is looking to release his latest album “Defy: Dream to Reality” this March.