LAGRANGE PARK, Ill. (STMW) — Writing a song about the untimely death of a close friend was helpful to one west suburban high school student, Pioneer Press is reporting.
And now Lyons Township High School junior Matt Brooks and four fellow band members of Ten and Counting are hoping the release of “Iain’s Song” on iTunes will help a lot more people.
Proceeds from the song’s release will benefit Erika’s Lighthouse, a nonprofit group based in Winnetka aimed at raising awareness about teen mental health.
Brooks said it took several months to process the tragedy and begin to heal after Western Springs freshman Iain Steele lost his battle with depression and took his life in June 2009.
“It was so hard for me knowing him just a year,” Brooks said. “I couldn’t imagine people who had known him since he was young.”
Steele was bullied at school and online for several years, his friends and family noted.
“I’m not a poem writer, but I write a lot of music,” Brooks said. “Obviously, expressing myself that way is really important. If anything comes up, I try to write about it.”
Normally, Brooks said he prefers to write the instrumental parts of his band’s mix of funk and garage rock, but he was moved to write lyrics in coping with Steele’s death.
“It took a couple of months before I realized, obviously, I hadn’t experienced anything like this and no one else had either. We all had to make our own way of dealing with it, and this was best for me.”
“Iain’s Song” debuted at a memorial concert Brooks arranged in November 2009. The concert raised $2,000 for nonprofit groups to battle teen depression and prevent suicide and bullying.
“We had to rock it and keep most of the set happy, then put the serous part at the end,” Brooks recalled. “A majority of the crowd started crying.”
Brooks, who plays guitar and keyboard, said the song is meant to heal and help others, rather than dwell on the tragedy.
“We hope people can remember and get further past this loss,” he said. “If they experience a similar situation, whether it’s involving themselves or a friend, maybe another suicide can be prevented from happening.”
Other members of Ten and Counting are Glenbard West students David Hahne on lead vocals, P.J. McCloskey, who plays guitar and sings, James Gould on drums and vocals, and Stephen Ilhardt on bass.
Brooks, of LaGrange Park, said he met the Glen Ellyn students while playing on a traveling baseball team, and they decided to form a band.
Willie Steele, Iain’s father, said he’s proud of his son’s friends’ efforts to help other struggling teens.
“It’s terrific,” Steele said. “It seems to us something good should come of it and that is the heightened awareness of mental health issues and how to treat each other in schools and everywhere.”
Steele said he and his wife, Liz, remain in close contact with their son’s friends, as well as officials from LT and Western Springs Elementary District 101 on efforts to counter bullying and support teens with mental health issues.
The couple took a proactive stance by sending all LT families a letter encouraging dialog on mental health issues and respectful relationships in and out of school.
“Iain’s Song” is available on iTunes, Zune and Amazon Mp3, following its release Jan. 29.
Brooks said feedback on the band’s Facebook page and by texts has been very positive, but he won’t know the extent of sales and money raised for several months.
The song’s lyrics read in part:
The message to be said here not an easy one to take
Great Life Gone, not taken by fate
You gotta be the one to stand up and say never again
Never again, will we all lose a best friend.
— Pioneer Press, via the Sun-Times Media Wire
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2011. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)