Thurnauer School of Music

We Came to America

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The Thurnauer School of Music commissioned Rob Kapilow to write a multimedia orchestral/choral composition. Whether you are a first generation American, or your family came to this country a long time ago, we want you to be part of this exciting project!

About We Came to America

Intergenerational Project

The Thurnauer School of Music has commissioned Rob Kapilow to compose a multimedia orchestral/choral composition based on the theme of Faith Ringgold’s book, We Came to America and inspired by the spirit of her words, “We came to America, every color, race and religion, from every country in the world.”

We recognize, especially at this moment in our country’s history, that each family has their own experience of coming to and living in America, and a family’s story may be one of hope and joy or one of suffering and pain. As Faith Ringgold’s book expresses, “Some of us were already here before the others came. And some of us were brought in chains losing our freedom and our names… Some of us came running from injustice fear and pain.” We hope to hear your stories, your heritage, memories and culture, to the extent you are comfortable sharing, both the good and the bad, the joys and the hardships.

Rob Kapilow’s inspiration for this project is you: Our Thurnauer families and friends, and the greater Bergen County community, who all play an important role in the birth, development, and performance of “We Came to America”. The piece has five movements, and some of the movements will include fragments of submitted writings, poems, and songs!

Be a part of the fabric we weave and the world we create for ourselves and our future generations.

Participate in creating this major work and celebrate with us at its premiere in 2022.

Submit Your Writing, Song, or Photos

SUBMIT A PIECE OF WRITING: Poems, Fragments of a Poem, or Sentences (in English or your native language)

Here are some questions to consider: How did you or your family come to be American? Did you or your family immigrate to America? What was the experience like? How was America the same or different from your native country?  If you came by choice, what were the hopes, dreams, and reality of the journey or the destination?

Click/tap here for additional inspiration, prompts, and examples

Submit your writing here >>


Make a recording of yourself singing in your native language or humming a tune. You can even ask your parents and siblings to join. And feel free to use your phone’s voice memo app or video option to make the process super easy. You can also write the lyrics and send them to us. We welcome all styles of submissions.

To submit a song, please email us at

SUBMIT PHOTOS/ART: Family photographs, Paintings, Tapestries, Sculptures, Needle points, Scarves, Drawings, or other visual artifacts that are near and dear to your family’s immigration story

Take a photo with your camera or phone and email us. Please include a caption to describe what/who is in the photo, what the piece of art is, and how it connects to you or your family’s story.

To submit photos or art, please email us at

By submitting, you give consent to the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades Thurnauer School of Music and Rob Kapilow, without expectation of compensation or other remuneration, now or in the future, to use the submission, in part or in whole, in a published musical work, in all print and electronic media (including a book containing the collective submissions and the Internet), in theatrical media (performance and/or recording), and/or in communications for education and marketing. If you wish for your submission to be anonymous, please email

Schedule Your Family Interview

We invite you to sit for an hour-long interview over zoom with Rob Kapilow. We encourage you to invite as many family members as possible, across generations. These family interviews are a special opportunity to have your family’s story recorded as a keepsake, and for children to hear their parents’ and grandparents’ stories, often for the first time.

To schedule an interview, please email us at, with the subject line “Family Interview – We Came to America”.

About Rob Kapilow, Artist-in-Residence

Composer, conductor, author, commentator Rob Kapilow has brought the joy and wonder of classical music – and unraveled some of its mysteries – to audiences of all ages and backgrounds for over 30 years. Through his well-known series, What Makes It Great?® (on NPR, PBS, and in concert halls around the world), FamilyMusik® (compositions for children and families), “Citypieces,” (involving large communities in the inspiration and compositional process), and his books on music, Rob has reached thousands of listeners and readers and earned himself the title of the “pied piper of music.” Read more at

In addition, Rob was a Thurnauer School of Music parent! He has taught classes, and given seminars and lectures at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades.

We Came to America Facebook Group

We welcome you to join our FaceBook group and hope you will stay in touch! It’s a place where Rob will share his process of what it takes to compose a piece, beginning with research all the way through completion.