Inspired by the commemoration of Mental Health Awareness week on Baylor's campus earlier this semester, students in the fine arts department collaborated on the presentation of the work Please Stay by composer Jake Runestad.
Written in 2017, this profound piece is described by the composer as “an anthem for hope—an attempt to destigmatize mental illness and challenge all of us to support those who are dealing with depression and thoughts of suicide." Members of the Concert Choir under the direction of Vincent Oakes prepared a virtual recording of the song, with students recording their individual parts at their homes due to the current pandemic restrictions around singing on campus.
After reviewing the piece and its powerful text, members of Baylor’s dance program led by Elizabeth Roemer ’05 and Margaret Harman ’14 interpreted the song through creative movement to accentuate the lyrics and musical performance. Donna Marie Siegel ’14 recorded the choir and dancers, then assembled the final video production. Spoken narrations in the song were inspired by text messages sent to the hashtag #IKeptLiving, written by individuals who battled depression.
“Finding our voice is vital to our mental health, in that it allows us to release our own emotional pain while also encouraging others to do the same. The beautiful thing about self-expression is that it can occur in many different forms, providing us all a means by which to discover our own path and find our own comfort,” said Kathy Fraley, Baylor’s director of counseling. “Through this piece, we witness the power and many unique ways one can share this gift, and open up the conversation that begins acceptance and healing.”