La Frontera

La Frontera (The Border) is a setting of a poem by that name for SATB Chorus and piano. The poem was written by an undocumented immigrant youth imprisoned in an American maximum security detention center. The full program notes are available below. Given the extraordinary cruelty and tragedy of the treatment of immigrants, I was moved to set this poem to music both to bear witness to the problem and to help bring more attention to the issues of immigration. We need comprehensive immigration reform and we need it now!

The above image is by Tony Webster, and licensed via Wikimedia Commons   CC BY 3.0 ; it has not been altered in any way.

Program Note

La Frontera (The Border ) is a poem by an undocumented immigrant youth imprisoned in an American maximum security detention center. Sadly, wecannot know the identity of the author due to governmental restrictions. But the words cry out to be heard and immortalized in music, scored  for chorus and piano, with additional versions for solo soprano or tenor and piano. I was drawn to set this poem because it captures the dark realities of the immigration process as well as the powerful desire to immigrate to America.

As the granddaughter and wife of immigrants, indeed as a citizen of the UnitedStates, I am deeply aware of both the astonishing and ongoing contributions of immigrants as well as the despicable treatment so many experience. Why do we forget our own status as immigrants or descendants of immigrants, and then deny the status of those who descend from indigenous peoples?

This poem, and the others published in the collection Dreaming America , was written during workshops held for immigrant youths in detention led by poet Seth Michelson. Some were created in collaboration with students from Washington and Lee University; others benefitted from visits by guest artists Jimmy Santiago Baca and Ricardo Dominguez. Larry Moffi, publisher of Settlement House Books, brought the book Dreaming America: Voices of Undocumented Youth in Maximum Security Detention to fruition and kindly granted permission to set this poem to music. Profits from the book sales are donated to the Detained Children’s Program of the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition (, to whom I will also donate my royalties. The .pdf of the  score is  available free of charge and choruses are invited to contribute to this organization in lieu of score purchase. Here are the links to .pdf’s of the various versions: piano/vocal choral version, open score choral version, soprano & piano, tenor & piano. –JS


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