A Trumpet Made Of Bullets And The Kids Who Inspired It Take Hope Around The Country

Aug 25, 2019
Originally published on August 25, 2019 1:24 pm

Everyone knows what a trumpet looks like: shiny brass. But the Instrument of Hope is mostly black.

Except for the lead pipe — the straight part that extends from the mouthpiece.

It's made of bullets.

"Bullets that were shot and fired out of a gun, cut up and pieced together," says Josh Landress, who made it.

The Instrument of Hope was inspired by an organization called Shine MSD — which stands for Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the Parkland, Fla., high school where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting on Feb. 14, 2018. Shine MSD is an organization of Parkland students and their parents whose mission is to promote healing through the arts — and through this instrument, which is touring the country.

The bullets used in the Instrument of Hope were taken from guns that had actually been fired. The instrument was inspired by the students of Shine MSD, a nonprofit founded by the students and parents of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.
Jon Donathan

But making a trumpet out of bullets was complicated, which is why Landress was a little hesitant when he got a call from Matt McKay, the executive creative director at Publicis Worldwide, an advertising and public relations firm. McKay heard about the Shine students and offered to donate his time to help spread their message.

"The message being, don't forget about these horrific events that happen," says McKay. "Something happens, the news is all over it for days and days and days and then all of a sudden it's just back to the same old thing. And there's a small amount of people that get impacted by these things that can't go back so the same old thing."

Two of the Parkland students who formed Shine are Sawyer Garrity and Andrea Peña. Garrity says that they were in drama class on the day of the shooting.

"The day right after, a lot of us went to Andrea's house and we just painted. ... I think that was kinda the first realization of art being therapeutic, 'cause that was the first thing we did," Garrity says. "We were listening to Glee music and random playlists just painting. And that made us feel even just a little bit better."

That weekend, Garrity says she and Peña started writing a song together called "Shine."

"I know Andrea and I, we both turn to music — it's something we both turn to when we're feeling any emotion," Garrity says. "And I think, what happened at our school, we were just left feeling so many emotions that we didn't know how to deal with. And so we just kinda poured it all into this song."

Trumpeter Matt Cappy shows the Instrument of Hope to World Café host Talia Schlanger.
Gabriela Barbieri / WXPN

They were able to record the song with their classmates at a professional studio in Florida thanks to a producer who donated his time and equipment. Then their parents got involved — and they formed the nonprofit organization named for the song.

But Garrity says it's still really hard. "Because what Shine is doing is we are advocating for healing through the arts. Like healing from trauma and stuff when we still haven't healed from that and we're still learning how to deal with that. And I have people coming who say things to me like, 'Oh you guys are what we want to look to when we want to see how to heal through trauma.' But I guess Shine is kind of looked at as like hopeful and stuff. But it's hard to stay hopeful all the time especially when you go through like what you go through."

The Shine students travel the country when they can, spreading awareness by performing and sharing their story. And at the same time, the trumpet they inspired, the Instrument of Hope, is on its own tour. Musicians and organizations can ask to host it. It made it into the hands of David Streim, who plays trumpet in singer-songwriter Amos Lee's band. It recently made its debut on Broadway, in Oklahoma. And it wound up in the hands of Matt Cappy, who's played with everybody from Tony Bennett to the late Aretha Franklin to the Roots.

And every once in a while, the Instrument of Hope returns to its maker, Josh Landress. On one of those occasions, the Shine kids were also in New York and got a chance to play it.

The visit meant a lot to Landress.

"They were laughing and having fun. To see that happiness come from them from a rough situation was really moving and kind of made me a little choked up. And to also hear their stories, it's so powerful. I couldn't imagine."

And maybe that's why they call it the Instrument of Hope.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The members of Shine MSD are on a mission. MSD stands for Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the high school in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people died in a mass shooting. Shine MSD is a group of Parkland students and parents who are promoting healing through the arts. As World Cafe's Talia Schlanger reports, they're getting help from a special trumpet called the Instrument of Hope.

TALIA SCHLANGER, BYLINE: You know what a trumpet sounds like. And you probably know what one looks like, too - shiny brass.

JOSH LANDRESS: We lacquered it in black. The shiny areas that you see are the polished brass and then clear lacquered over that. We wanted it to really stand out in kind of pop so you could see - hey, these are the parts - are actual bullets...

SCHLANGER: Josh Landress made it.

LANDRESS: ...Bullets that were shot and fired out of a gun cut up and pieced together. And this is the lead pipe...

SCHLANGER: Landress is pointing to the long, straight part of the instrument that comes out of the mouthpiece. Picture a bunch of empty bullet casings lined up end-to-end leading towards the bell where the sound comes out.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAYING TRUMPET)

SCHLANGER: And you've drilled a hole through (inaudible)...

LANDRESS: Yeah. It's drilled all the way out...

SCHLANGER: ...So that the air goes in?

LANDRESS: ...So that the air can go through. And it makes it a playable instrument.

As you can see, it's just a spinning piece of brass. So what I'm going to do now is I'm just going to cut some of the metal.

SCHLANGER: As you can imagine, making a trumpet out of bullets was complicated...

LANDRESS: So you can see the brass kind of flying off of it...

SCHLANGER: ...Which is why Josh was a little hesitant when he got a call from a guy named Matt McKay from an advertising and PR company called Publicis.

MATT MCKAY: That is spelled P-U-B-L-I-C-I-S.

SCHLANGER: McKay is the executive creative director at Publicis Worldwide. He heard about the Shine students from Parkland and offered to donate his time to help spread their message.

MCKAY: The message being, don't forget about these horrific events that happen - something happens. The news is all over it for days and days and days. And then all of a sudden it's just back to the same, old thing. And there's a small amount of people that get impacted by these things that can't go back to the same, old thing.

SCHLANGER: Two of the Parkland students who formed Shine are Sawyer Garrity and Andrea Pena. Garrity says that they were in drama class on the day of the shooting.

SAWYER GARRITY: The day right after, a lot of us went to Andrea's house. And we just like...

ANDREA PENA: Yeah.

GARRITY: And we just, like, painted. And we don't really talk much. We're just, like, painting. And like, I think that was kind of the first realization of art being therapeutic.

PENA: Yeah.

GARRITY: ...Because that was the first thing we did. We were listening to, like, "Glee" music and, like, playing random playlists and just, like, painting. And that made us feel even just a little bit better.

SCHLANGER: That weekend, Garrity and Pena started writing a song together called "Shine."

GARRITY: I know Andrea and I - we both turn to music. It's something we both turn to when we're feeling any emotion. And I think what happened at our school - we were just, like, feeling so many emotions that we didn't know how to deal with. And so we just kind of poured it all into the song. And if we didn't do it when we did it, we didn't write that song right then and there when we were feeling everything, the song wouldn't have been as genuine and as raw and as real as it is today.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHINE")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #1: (Singing) You - you through my city away. You tore down the walls and opened all the gates.

SCHLANGER: That's Pena and Garrity singing. They were able to record the song with their classmates at a professional studio in Florida thanks to a producer who donated his time and equipment.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHINE")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #1: (Singing) We're not going to let you in. We're putting up a fight. You may have brought the dark. But, together, we will shine the light. And whoa. We will be something special. Whoa. We're going to shine.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #2: (Singing) Shine.

SCHLANGER: Then their parents got involved. And they formed the nonprofit organization named for the song.

GARRITY: It's really hard because what Shine's doing is we're advocating for healing through the arts...

SCHLANGER: Sawyer Garrity.

GARRITY: ...Like, healing from trauma and stuff when we still haven't healed from that. And we're still learning how to deal with that. And I have people coming who say things to me like, oh, you guys are what we want to look to when we want to see how to heal through trauma. But I guess Shine is kind of looked at as, like, hopeful and stuff. But it's hard to stay hopeful all the time, especially when you go through, like, what you go through.

SCHLANGER: The Shine students travel the country when they can, spreading awareness by performing and sharing their story. And, at the same time, the trumpet they inspired, the instrument of hope, is on its own tour. It made it into the hands of David Streim, who plays trumpet in singer-songwriter Amos Lee's band.

DAVID STREIM: The responsibility and the honor of playing something like this - it's a pretty incredible feeling just holding it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SCHLANGER: The trumpet recently made its debut on Broadway.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: "Oklahoma!" is honored to feature this Instrument of Hope today as one of the stops on his tour across the country.

(APPLAUSE)

SCHLANGER: And it wound up in the hands of Matt Cappy, who's played with everybody from Tony Bennett to the late Aretha Franklin to The Roots.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MATT CAPPY: I present to you the Instrument of Hope.

(APPLAUSE)

SCHLANGER: Every once in a while, the Instrument of Hope returns to its maker, Josh Landress. and on one of those occasions, the Shine kids were also in New York and got a chance to play it.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAYING TRUMPET)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: I can't do it.

LANDRESS: Don't give up.

SCHLANGER: The visit meant a lot to Landress.

LANDRESS: They were laughing and having fun. To see that happiness come from them from a rough situation was really moving and kind of made me a little choked up. And to also hear their stories, it's so powerful. I couldn't imagine.

SCHLANGER: And maybe that's why they call it the Instrument of Hope. For NPR News, I'm Talia Schlanger.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.