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She Lives On In Words And Music...

Gone before her time, a young woman from Clinton Hill is being remembered through song. Family and friends of Christina Porter will honor the life of the student, singer, artist and poet at a special concert on January 22 at the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene. Dubbed “Four Porter Songs,” the show will feature singers performing renditions of Porter’s literary creations. Commissioned by the Brooklyn Friends of Chamber Music, the words were set to music by composer Pierre Jalbert. The concert is a fitting tribute to Porter, an accomplished opera singer, avid poet and talented sketch artist. Just 21 years old, Porter died in January 2005 from head injuries she sustained in a skiing accident one year earlier. The concert is one way Porter’s parents, Brent Porter and Mary Salstrom, are ensuring that their daughter’s spirit lives on. “It helps us a lot to be able to have other people share in what Christina did in her life,” Salstrom said. “That gives us comfort.” At “Four Porter Songs,” Brooklynites will be able to listen to musical versions of four poems Porter penned. A common theme in the poems Jalbert selected for the concert is Porter’s love of music. This is evident in “Guitar Summer,” which reads, “Vibrations welling. Fingers exploring. Tips tingling. Chords splayed…Strum at sea, near sea, in heat sea. Hang high, on varied knee crags, summer guitars. Tunes pinched. Voices stirred. Vocal heat. Ears saturated.” Porter began writing poems when she was in kindergarten at St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn Heights. She further developed her literary skills at Dartmouth College and at a summer poetry workshop at Yale University. “She must have written 500 poems,” Salstrom said. She won numerous Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for her pieces, as well as her drawings. She was even asked to create murals for a day care center and St. Ann’s. Writing poetry offered Porter an outlet to express her feelings, one that her parents hope to provide to other Brooklyn teenagers. With the help of Borough President Marty Markowitz and City Councilmembers David Yassky and Letitia James, Brent and Salstrom are launching Christina Porter Poetry in the Schools. Through the project, they plan to implement a poetry program at a local Brooklyn school in the upcoming weeks. The program would be a great fit at public schools, as they often lack poetry instruction, Brent explained. “The kids don’t have any poetry or anything. This is an attempt to have kids write poetry,” he said. “We’re trying to have poetry in the schools from sixth grade to ninth grade,” Salstrom said. Brent and Salstrom hope many more local teens can benefit from writing poems the way their daughter did. “It not only gives them a chance to express themselves in a beautiful way but it also affects their writing and the way they speak and see,” Salstrom said. In keeping with enhancing the educational lives of neighborhood teens, Brent and Salstrom have created the Christina Porter Scholarship Fund. They have also started the Christina Fund For Head Trauma., which they hope will prevent others from suffering the same near-fatal skiing accident that Porter did. In February 2004, Porter was not wearing a helmet when she hit a tree during a Dartmouth beginner skiing class. She died after undergoing severe head trauma treatment. Porter’s parents believe that her injuries would have been less severe if she had been wearing a helmet. That’s why they are lobbying for the state to pass legislation requiring all skiers to wear helmets on the slopes. “If she had been wearing a helmet, she probably would have had a concussion and she would have been fine,” Salstrom said. The Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church is located at 85 South Oxford Street. Tickets to “Four Porter Songs,” which will start at 3 p.m., are $15 at the door or $10 in advance. To reserve tickets or for more information, contact the Brooklyn Friends of Chamber Music at 718-855-3053. To learn more about the Christina Fund For Head Trauma, log onto www.thechristinafund.com.

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