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American DREAMers (2018)

for SATB choir | 00:25:00

by Melissa Dunphy | text by Marlene Rangel, Javier Zamora, Janine Joseph, Julia Montejo, Claudia D. Hernández

American DREAMers was commissioned by Philadelphia community choir PhilHarmonia (Mitos Andaya Hart, Director) to bring to light the stories of immigrants in the wake of anti-immigrant rhetoric during and after the 2016 election. Five texts from five young Americans who were brought to America as children were chosen—Marlene Rangel, Javier Zamora, Janine Joseph, Julia Montejo, and Claudia D. Hernández—and those texts were woven into a multi-movement work that honors their story and inspires hope, empathy, and action.

Marlene Part 1
I was eight years old when I left my home.
I remember my parents waking me to leave,
but I didn’t know where we were going.
We had to walk for a long time
and cross a river.
That’s when I realized
that we were going somewhere far.
—Marlene Rangel

Dancing in Buses
Pretend a boom box
blasts over your shoulder. Raise
your hands in the air.
Twist them as if picking limes. Look
to the right as if crossing
streets. Look to the left,
slowly as if balancing orange
baskets. Bend as if picking
cotton. Do the rump. Straighten
up as if dropping firewood. Rake,
do the rake. Sweep,
do the sweep. Do the Pupusa-
Clap-finger dough clumps. Clap.
Do the Horchata-Scoop—
your hand's a ladle, scoop.
Reach and scoop. Now,
duck. They're shooting. Duck
under the seat, and
don't breathe.
Hands behind your head.
Drop down.
Look at the ground.
Roll over.
Face the mouth of the barrel.
Do the protect-face-with-hand.
Don't scream.
—Javier Zamora*
*"Dancing in Buses" from Unaccompanied. Copyright © 2017 by Javier Zamora. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Copper Canyon Press All rights reserved worldwide.

Marlene Part 2
My dad would come to school with me
for the first few weeks so I could get used to it.
It was so hard...
I had one classmate who was Hispanic.
He and I became good friends.
As the years passed, my English improved
and I adjusted to the American culture.
Everything had fallen into place
and I was comfortable.
—Marlene Rangel

More milk, more milk makes it better
In 1986, when I was three and a half years old I won
an award for sitting cute and biting into a slice
of Kraft Cheddar Cheese. Then how my star blew up:
I was on the cover of calendars, in the Sunday section,
stomping the runway, turning down small parts
in movies. At seven, I promised my mom I would never
be chubby again. No way. I swirled a dress in the dressing
room and was the daughter my brothers hated.
Nothing could stop me, not even America with its rich
marshmallow cereals. But the milk, oh God the grade A,
vitamin D milk. No one knew what it was doing to me.
Little Miss Piggy drinking 8 oz. by the kidney-bean pool.
All my life it had been coconut juice, mango juice, and water. Little
Miss Piggy mending her polka dot suit. It had been goat's milk
and goat's milk. Little Miss Piggy clasping her knees to her chest
and winning the cannonball contest. I was small, indomitable,
and could hide behind the couch with a stein. It was the drink
of all the saints. It was worth all my work in the world.
—Janine Joseph

Marlene Part 3
In my junior year of high school, reality hit me.
I found out I could not go to college because I was undocumented.
I wanted to be a nurse
my dream wasn’t going to be easy to achieve.
—Marlene Rangel

So today, remember that you are beautiful.
You are creators, you are laughers, you are lovers,
you are lights of hope and joy.
Take the time you need to feel the pain.
Know that even existing in the spaces you occupy is resistance.
Know that, as we fight this battle for our dignity,
you are souls of strength and power,
but you’re allowed to feel vulnerable at times.
Know that every moment of self-care you can find
is still part of fighting this fight.
Know that every time you paint your nails,
dance in your room, eat a treat,
laugh with your friends, run in the woods,
or do anything that gives you joy,
you are resisting a system
that thinks we’re not worthy of even smiling.
I believe in us.
Together, we will overcome.
—Julia Montejo

Marlene Part 4
My parents have remained my motivation
to keep myself in school.
I now know that anything is possible.
I have the opportunity to be what I want and do what I want.
I have to take that opportunity and not waste it.
—Marlene Rangel

Aquí estamos.
This is where we found our home away from home.
This is where we belong.
Mother Earth, who feeds us all,
takes our roots,
their roots,
no matter how long,
how short—
she’s whispering:
this is where you belong.
R E S I S T! R E S I S T!
Pelea con diente y madre!
This is where you belong, Dreamer!
—Claudia D. Hernández

Jennifer Baker
Silvana Cardell
Karen Lopez
Maria Sotomayor

Artwork by Cameryn Richards and Mike Dunn


  • 04 Dec, 2020: Carleton College Choir at Carleton Skinner Memorial Chapel, Northfield, MN
  • 30 May, 2020: Seattle University Choir at St. Joseph's Parish, Seattle, WA
  • 31 Mar, 2020: UNF Chamber Singers, cond. Simon Carrington at University of North Florida, Jacksonville, FL
  • 01 Mar, 2020: Resonance Ensemble (excerpts) at Alberta Rose Theatre, Portland, OR
  • 29 Feb, 2020: Voicegivers Choir (excerpt) at Holy Family Institute, Emsworth, PA
  • 12 Jan, 2020: Mid-Columbia Mastersingers at St. Joseph Parish, Sunnyside, WA
  • 12 Jan, 2020: Mid-Columbia Mastersingers at St Joseph Catholic Church, Sunnyside, WA
  • 11 Jan, 2020: Mid-Columbia Mastersingers at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Kennewick, WA
  • 11 Jan, 2020: Mid-Columbia Mastersingers at St. Joseph Parish, Kennewick, WA
  • 10 Jan, 2020: Mid-Columbia Mastersingers at St. Patrick Catholic Church, Pasco, WA
  • 10 Jan, 2020: Mid-Columbia Mastersingers at St. Patrick Catholic Church, Pasco, WA
  • 14 Dec, 2019: Santa Monica College Concert Chorale & Chamber Choir at The Broad Stage at SMC Performing Arts Center, Santa Monica, CA
  • 13 Dec, 2019: Santa Monica College Concert Chorale & Chamber Choir at The Broad Stage at SMC Performing Arts Center, Santa Monica, CA
  • 02 Nov, 2019: PhilHarmonia (excerpts) at St. Peter’s Episcopal, Port Royal, VA
  • 27 Oct, 2019: PhilHarmonia (excerpts) at Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
  • 20 Oct, 2019: The Singers at Annunciation Catholic, Minneapolis, MN
  • 19 Oct, 2019 - 20 Oct, 2019: The Singers at House of Hope Presbyterian Church, St. Paul, MN
  • 08 Jun, 2019: Choir Ex ore equi at LV21, Gravesend, Kent, UK
  • 20 May, 2019: Musica Vocale at First United Methodist Church, Lawrence, KS
  • 19 May, 2019: Musica Vocale at Sacred Heart – Guadalupe, Kansas City, MO
  • 06 May, 2019: Southern Connecticut State University at Spring Glen Church, Hamden, CT
  • 24 Apr, 2019: Temple University Singers at Temple Performing Arts Center, Philadelphia, PA
  • 28 Mar, 2019: Singing Hoosiers at Auer Hall, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
  • 15 Mar, 2019: Ecco (excerpts) at CCDA Conference, St Joseph's Basilica, San Jose, CA
  • 09 Mar, 2019: Convivium at Christ Episcopal Church, Los Altos, CA
  • 27 Jan, 2019: Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir (excerpts) at Covenant Presbyterian Church, Palo Alto, CA
  • 21 Oct, 2018: Resonance Ensemble at Bethel AME Church, Portland, OR
  • 21 Oct, 2018: Voces Novae (excerpts) at Unitarian Universalist Church, Bloomington, IN
  • 21 Oct, 2018: Voces Novae (excerpts) at Clayshire Castle, Bowling Green, IN
  • 20 Oct, 2018: Volti Choral Institute Choir (excerpts) at Acalanes High School, Lafayette, CA
  • 14 Oct, 2018: PhilHarmonia at Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
  • 02 Jun, 2018: PhilHarmonia at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, Philadelphia, PA