An MLK Day of symphonies, service and Sneetches at Hillel Community Day School

An MLK Day of symphonies, service and Sneetches at Hillel Community Day School

Channel 13 News was also covering the event. 1/18/16

Tucked away on Fairfield Road in Brighton, Hillel Community Day School might seem an unlikely venue for a Martin Luther King Day event.


Mrs. Jenna Hiller, Director of Institutional Advancement at Hillel Community Day School. On the walls are the school’s impressive collection of Israeli Kibbutz-era posters. 1/18/16

But yesterday–as advertised in the papers–HCDS opened its doors to the public for a unique presentation: Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches  A Symphonic Poem Narration and Visual Adaptation, a 26 minute orchestral work accompanying the Doctor Seuss story, composed by renowned Spanish composer Lorenzo Palomo.

And, in the spirit of Dr. King (and Dr. Seuss), in the afternoon grades 3-6 visited the Brighton Food Cupboard, donating canned food and helping organize the shelves.


Hillel Community Day School students watching and listening to Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches: A Symphonic Poem Narration and Visual Adaptation 1/18/16 [Photo provided by Jenna Hiller]

At the event, I was greeted by the school’s Director of Institutional Advancement, Jenna Hiller. Jenna explained that HCDS chose to be open this year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day for a day of service and other programming, including the symphonic poem.

The school felt the story of the Sneetches–prejudice and discrimination by one group of bird-like creatures towards another in which the Sneetches learn tolerance of one another’s differences–was an ideal teaching moment to honor Dr. King.

Afterwards, teachers led discussions about equality and inclusion as Geisel’s ever fresh parable helps to simplify what discrimination and intolerance looks like in an age appropriate way.  Students also worked in class to create their own version of MLK’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

As Jenna said, so powerful are the ideas that “The Sneetches” was considered for use as a tool for teaching tolerance in war torn Bosnia in 1998. I could see the power of those ideas–infused with Seussian magic–in the intent eyes of the students mesmerized for all 26 minutes.

No doubt the students visited the Brighton Food Cupboard with a better appreciation of the wrongness of casting unthinking and hurtful judgments–by imaginary birds or real people.

foofd pantry

Hillel Community Day School students visiting the Brighton Food Cupboard 1/18/16 [Photo provided by Jenna Hiller]

Dr. Sidney Sobel of Rochester, an active supporter of HCSD along with his wife Barbara, originally commissioned Maestro Palomo, their longtime friend, to compose the work.  Dr. Sobel’s hope is that musical events like this–entertaining both children and adults– can influencing behavior in ways that help eradicate intolerance, especially bullying and racism. As he says, “No language is more universal than music, no message more important than that of “The Sneetches.”


Barbara Sobel and Dr. Sidney Sobel [Photo provided by Jenna Hiller]

Unfortunately, Dr. Sobel had to miss the laughter and the inspiration of the morning. In his place, Barbara read a touching letter addressing the audience in his absence.



See also on Martin Luther King Jr.

On his Day, remembering when Martin Luther King visited Rochester, January 8th, 1958

Nazareth College’s President Daan Braveman on defining moments and his own March on Washington, August 1963

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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