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The Power of Music: Calling Attention to Opioid Addiction and Honoring Lives Lost

Four people facing the camera

On a warm summer day in 2018, Stephen Moore drove home from his last drug rehab session. Parked in his car, he poured out his feelings in a rap song that he wrote and posted on Facebook. Shortly thereafter, he died of a drug overdose.

Moore’s cousin Melissa Rice ’09, who has dedicated her life to bringing awareness to mental health issues, was compelled to preserve his legacy while calling much-needed attention to opioid addiction. Rice, an adjunct faculty member at Immaculata and faculty advisor of CogWell, a mental health club on Immaculata’s campus, calls opioid addiction “the epidemic that no one talks about.” She wanted to bring Moore’s song to life so that it might help others who are struggling with addiction and worked with Immaculata music students and their professor to pair Moore’s lyrics and vocals with a professional-quality music track.

Rice first connected with Marchello Barile ’24, a music therapy major, and Breanna Kratz ’23, a music therapy major with a minor in psychology. The students then recruited their professor, Bruce MacKnight ’21, who teaches music technology at Immaculata. The trio worked together to extract Moore’s vocals from the song posted on Facebook, add instrumentation and a chorus written by Rice, and record Moore’s vocals over the students’ music and chorus.

MacKnight and the students discussed the song’s structure and flow and worked out the chordal structure. MacKnight optimized the timing between verses and choruses and added the music by utilizing a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), which combines digital audio with acoustic audio. With this technology, he layered the foundation of electronic drums, bass guitar, and MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) keyboards.

MacKnight, who also serves as a producer with Oxford Recording Studio in Philadelphia, arranged for the song to be professionally recorded at one of their studios. “Affording Breanna the opportunity to record the lead vocals in the vocal isolation booth was amazing, and she crushed it,” MacKnight said. During the recording sessions, he also laid down Barile’s live, improvised trumpet solo tracks.

Realizing Moore’s rap was untitled, the trio brainstormed possible names.  “I distinctly remember the moment when I came up with the title of the song,” stated Kratz, who suggested “Love, Moore” as the song’s title. “Once I shared the idea, I felt like that was when everything started to move forward, and it was such an exhilarating feeling.”

My baby brother he got Down syndrome, but the kid lights up the world of those surrounding him
But I’m scared of what his future holds, cause mother effers use the word retarded everywhere I go
And this pair of eyes has seen despair in lives
Misguided minds go through harrowing times
I watched the greatest people go from heroes and heroines
To junkies on the block with needles and heroin
I don’t know why God dealt me with this hand, and why half the world don’t even understand
I hate the fact I hurt the people that  are close to me
I hate the fact that I feel numb emotionally
And now it’s time to go away again to get it right
And now it’s time to go away again just to get it right
Cause all I want to do is feel love and live a happy life

The last verse of original rap song posted by Stephen Moore on Facebook.

Once the song was recorded, the group wanted to share it with Moore’s family and the campus community. On Wednesday, April 19, “Love, Moore” made its debut at a campus-wide event organized by Rice. Moore’s original rap video was projected on the large screen along with photos from his life. Accompanying the video was the newly produced and recorded song that featured the chorus sung by Kratz, Barile’s trumpet solo and the instrumentation engineered by MacKnight. Barile referred to the song as a “message from heaven” that left a profound impact on those who attended the event.

“Love, Moore” is available on iTunes and Bandcamp, with proceeds from the song benefitting Kacie’s Cause, a non-profit dedicated to minimizing the effects of substance use disorder through education, support, prevention and advocacy. During the event, volunteers from Kacie’s Cause provided a demonstration of how to administer Narcan, a nasal spray used to reverse an overdose by blocking the effects of opioids. The organization provides free Narcan to the community.

Andie Summers, on-air personality for 92.5 WXTU-FM in Philadelphia, served as the master of ceremonies for the event, which also featured live performances from Kratz, Barile, MacKnight and Rice. Tony Luke Jr, singer/songwriter and American restaurateur, spoke about his son’s death from an overdose and shared a song, “One More Night,” that he wrote about the experience.

“Being a contributor to share Steve’s story is the ultimate payoff from the project,” said MacKnight. “It really means something to me–personally knowing the impact addiction and loss can have on families. It highlights how important music is to our world.”

Moore’s mom, Judy Wilson Moore, saw first-hand how music can impact listeners. After the event, she was appreciative of everyone who participated in the project. She stated, “What a beautiful night in remembrance of Stephen. To the musicians, thank you for bringing Stephen’s song to life and allowing his story to help save others. I am forever grateful.”

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