January 7, 2011


Singer’s hard time ballads give youth inspiration

SingerJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
McGraw students, from left, Joe Martin, Makayla Standish and Tyler Hewlett talk with Jared Campbell, right, after Campbell presented an interactive performance to help empower young people.

Staff Reporter

McGRAW — Jared Campbell was surrounded by admirers during lunchtime Thursday at McGraw High School — students who had been touched by the stories he tells in songs.
Campbell was selling compact discs of his music, but he also was listening as students told him they related to his message of overcoming obstacles, treating each other well and pursuing their dreams.
Campbell sang and joked with students Wednesday during two performances of his Blue Project, an interactive concert he has brought to dozens of schools in New York and Pennsylvania.
Campbell performed first for grades five through eight, then for grades nine through 12.
“You sang about doing what you’ve got to do, and I lost sight of that recently,” said one senior girl.
Sophomore Dylan Hendrickson told Campbell about a cousin in Broome County who committed suicide around New Year’s Eve, possibly because he was suffering stress over family problems at holiday time. Campbell knew about the situation and said he felt badly.
Students purchased the Binghamton resident’s CDs and joked with him, saying they enjoyed his performance in the school the day before.
Campbell, playing his guitar, had told the students stories of young people like themselves, battling stress and depression and bullying. He had them clap and stomp their feet with him. He laughed when he tried to sing Justin Bieber songs and they told him no, please.
“He led them through the theme for ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ and after that, they were his,” said district health coordinator Jenny Tucker. “Anyone who can stand up there in front of high school kids and hold their attention is great.”
Tucker had Campbell come to the school after hearing about his musical campaign against the many problems afflicting students. Campbell, 28, said his wife, Meridee — a middle school health teacher — grew up in Sandy Creek with the daughter of Mary Curcio, McGraw’s superintendent of schools, so that connection helped.
“Music is more powerful than talk,” he said between chats with students Thursday. “One of my songs tells the story of a girl who was bullied. That girl told me her story in an e-mail, that she had been in the hospital with depression from being picked on.”
The Vestal native’s music has been featured on MTV’s “Real World” and “Road Rules” shows. He gathers ideas from talking to middle and high school students.
“Every song had a different story, about kids having trouble with school,” said junior Adrianne Francey. She and friends she was eating lunch with, sophomores Taylor Curren and Chelsy Sanford, said Campbell involved the crowd and even made up a song about McGraw and its five-second bell between classes.
“Some of it was about being lonely,” said freshman Brad Hill. “We know kids like that, kids he sang about.”
Teachers also stopped by to thank Campbell for his messages.
“We have a big push to remind kids to be kind to one another,” Tucker said. “Kids are going through a difficult time, in school. Our kids are the best, very respectful, but everyone has problems.”


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