Middle school musicians debut Bryan's song, in memory of student who took own life after bullying
It was a warm April night in the Emory H. Markle Middle School auditorium Thursday when Hallie Doll played "Compassion," a song written in memory of her brother.
She used Bryan Doll's violin while performing with the sixth- through eighth-grade orchestras during the spring concert on April 13. After the song, the audience gave a standing ovation as conductor Rossano Galante, who also composed the song, took a bow and pointed at the orchestra.
Hallie had been stressed, she said, and she thought of Bryan the whole time she performed.
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Five years ago, Bryan was being bullied, according to his family, and at 14 years old, he took his own life. His death rippled through the community, which raised money that was used to form Be The Change, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing bullying. His family also created the Bryan Doll Jr. Memorial Fund, which they closed when Bryan would have graduated. The family asked Larry Kuntz, the middle school’s director of orchestra studies, for ways to donate to the orchestra because Bryan was a musician. He played the drums and violin and had taught himself to play piano.
Kuntz, who was a confidant of Bryan’s and is retiring this year, suggested a few options, including hiring a composer to write a song for Bryan. The family agreed and Kuntz then hired Galente, who composed “Compassion.”
Hallie had mixed feelings as she was learning the song. She was sad, but it reminded her of Bryan a lot, and she felt he was there with her.
Her grandmother, Claire Fortino, noticed Hallie was stressed the morning of the concert.
“I very calmly told her that Bryan is standing on one side of her and (Hallie’s grandfather) is standing on the other,” Fortino recalled saying. “And they will guide you, and they will help you get through this.”
Fortino said her granddaughter quickly shook off the stress and ate her breakfast.
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When she listened to the music, Fortino said it was “unreal.” Fortino couldn’t catch her breath from the moment Hallie introduced the piece to the minute the students stopped playing. She thought her granddaughter was amazing.
‘She’s had a really tough time through all of it,” Fortino said.
Bryan and Hallie’s mom, Jessica Fortino Doll, was also proud of Hallie, who Doll said is usually shy, for introducing the song. She noted her daughter was emotional when the concert finished.
“Coming here, I used to listen to Bryan when it was him in the concert,” Bryan Doll Sr., the siblings' father, recalled.
He knows his son would have loved to play that song.
While watching, Bryan Doll Sr. tried not to tear up or lose control because he wanted to watch and listen.
The family all felt the younger Bryan was there, possibly on stage next to his sister.
They all hope Bryan’s message of compassion and being nicer to people get out there when the song hits the market in the fall.
Hallie said his message is: “People shouldn’t bully each other because you know how it’s going to turn out."
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Her other brother, Matthew, said it’s not hard to be kind to each other; it’s easier than being angry with others.
Both follow Bryan’s footsteps by standing up to bullies. Matthew doesn’t see many instances, but Hallie does, which she reports.
“There’s so much hatred right now,” Claire Fortino said, explaining she is scared for her grandchildren and everyone else’s and that any effort to put good out in the world helps.
Bryan Doll Sr. hopes people get curious when they hear the song and search for his son’s name online.
“I don’t want another kid to lose their life; I just don’t,” he said, explaining he wouldn’t wish the pain he and Jess experienced on anyone.
Doll said she hopes people do better by teaching their children bullying is wrong.
— Reach Meredith Willse at email@example.com or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.