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

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.
/ John Donathan
John Donathan
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.

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
Trumpeter Matt Cappy shows the Instrument of Hope to World Café host Talia Schlanger.

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 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: August 27, 2019 at 11:00 PM CDT
A previous photo credit misspelled John Donathan's first name as Jon.
Talia Schlanger hosts World Cafe, which is distributed by NPR and produced by WXPN, the public radio service of the University of Pennsylvania. She got her start in broadcasting at the CBC, Canada's national public broadcaster. She hosted CBC Radio 2 Weekend Mornings on radio and was the on-camera host for two seasons of the television series CBC Music: Backstage, as well as several prime-time music TV specials for CBC, including the Quietest Concert Ever: On Fundy's Ocean Floor. Schlanger also guest hosted various flagship shows on CBC Radio One, including As It Happens, Day 6 and Because News. Schlanger also won a Canadian Screen Award as a producer for CBC Music Presents: The Beetle Roadtrip Sessions, a cross-country rock 'n' roll road trip.
Since 2017, John Myers has been the producer of NPR's World Cafe, which is produced by WXPN at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Previously he spent about eight years working on the other side of Philly at WHYY as a producer on the staff of Fresh Air with Terry Gross. John was also a member of the team of public radio veterans recruited to develop original programming for Audible and has worked extensively as a freelance producer. His portfolio includes work for the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, The Association for Public Art and the radio documentary, Going Black: The Legacy of Philly Soul Radio. He's taught radio production to preschoolers and college students and, in the late 90's, spent a couple of years traveling around the country as a roadie for the rock band Huffamoose.
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