La Frontera

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

Instrumentation: SATB + piano
Also available for SSA or TTBB + piano and
for Soprano or tenor and piano
Premiere: 01/30/2022
LA Master Chorale
Walt Disney Hall; Los Angeles, CA

Program Note

La Frontera (The Border ) is a poem by an undocumented immigrant youth held 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, 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. Given the frequent cruelty in the treatment of immigrants, I wanted both to bear witness to the problem and to help bring more attention to the issues of immigration.

As the granddaughter and wife of immigrants, indeed as a citizen of the United States, 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 yet 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 profits. 

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