Like so many others, when 15-year-old Greenwich resident Pippa Leigh first heard of the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December, she was overwhelmed with grief and unable to sleep for days.
But rather than standing by helplessly, the aspiring musician used her anguish to write a tribute song dedicated to both the victims and the survivors of the tragedy. As a former student at Riverside Elementary School, an institution she described as strikingly similar to Sandy Hook, Pippa said the shootings hit too close to home. And with several cousins the same age as the victims, the events were all the more real for her.
“I was in tears all the time,” Pippa said. “It’s so scary to think it could happen [nearby].”
Fortunately, Pippa found a way to give back to the Newtown community. After writing both the music and lyrics for her song, Sandy Hook Tribute, she discovered Sandy Hook Promise.
The nonprofit organization was created to unify the Newtown community in an effort to heal and support those affected by the Sandy Hook shootings as well as to support solutions that make the community safer from similar acts of violence. Teaming up with Sandy Hook Promise, Pippa released Sandy Hook Tribute on iTunes at the beginning of the month and will donate all proceeds from the song, which is available on the site for 99 cents, directly to the organization.
As she wrote her first original song, Pippa said, she tried to envision what victims’ parents would say to their children. The lyrics “each breath I take will be for you” were a result of that thought process, she said. Additionally, she said, the lyrics “I’ll love you every moment inside our hearts” was another piece of the song that seemed to truly capture the feelings she experienced in the aftermath of the shootings.
“I poured all my emotions out and everything I was feeling,” Pippa said of the writing process.
Working with the Norwalk-based Factory Underground Studio, whose own Ethan Isaac and Kenny Cash wrote the arrangement for Sandy Hook Tribute, Pippa said, the song took roughly four to five days to record and another four to five to edit, but editing was not something she wanted to overdo. Given the subject of the song, Pippa said, she wanted the sound to be “raw” and “natural” with few added effects.
She has since teamed up again with Factory Underground to create a music video for the song, which can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=gDf3YiFW_ms. Within the video is a connection to the family of 6-year-old Sandy Hook victim Jessica Rekos. Recalling an interview with Jessica’s mother in which she said she was still waiting to see her little girl in her black, glittery Ugg boots, Pippa used that image to honor Jessica. As an owner of the same pair of boots, Pippa said, she wore them throughout the music video as a tribute to the young victim and her family.
On the bright side of the whole experience, Pippa said she was excited to see the process of how her own song was produced and has since started to write more of her own material, with hopes of pursuing a career as a singer. In fact, Factory Underground Studio will soon release Pippa’s short record (known as an EP) of songs unrelated to the Sandy Hook tragedy.
A sophomore at School of the Holy Child in Rye, N.Y., Pippa has performed at Carnegie Hall and Rockefeller Center, as well as numerous other marguee venues and has been recording since she was four-years-old. She is also an avid figure skater and Pippa said the life experiences she has gained competing around the country have helped better prepare her for a career in music — a demanding industry for a young teen.
To purchase Pippa’s song, search Sandy Hook Tribute in the iTunes online store. All proceeds are donated to Sandy Hook Promise.