New Music Video “The Constitution Song” Aims to Boost Voter Registration Among Young Americans
The project is a collaboration between Grammy Award-winning composer and producer Johnny Butler and Ohio State Constitutional Scholar Peter Shane.
COLUMBUS, OHIO — Advocates will take to social media this weekend to share The Constitution Song, a brand new nonpartisan music video aimed at encouraging young Americans to register to vote and “add your voice” to the Constitution by participating in the voting process this November.
Two years in the making, the partially crowdfunded music video features two dozen dancers and musicians who collaborated to produce the work in isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. A mix of Schoolhouse Rock and Broadway’s Hamilton, The Constitution Song began with a lyric by Peter M. Shane, who holds the Jacob E. Davis and Jacob E. Davis II Chair in Law at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Shane is also a board member of the American Constitution Society and the author of numerous books and articles about law and politics.
“A friend challenged me to write a rap that would both teach people about the Constitution and inspire young people to vote,” Peter Shane said. “I called it The Constitution Song because songs change and grow richer as more voices join the chorus. I want every young American to know that their voice—and their vote—can be critical parts of democracy’s chorus, going forward.”
Former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, now the President of the American Constitution Society, said, “I am so pleased to join with others to applaud this video’s message. The Constitution’s genius is in its adaptability. We can make our government more just and more effective if we are all willing to ‘add our voices’ as the song suggests, and protect the right to vote.”
“The people featured in the video and the identities acknowledged are very representative of the young people I have the pleasure of interacting and working with,” said Libby Watson, Colleges and Community Engagement Coordinator for the Washington Bus, an affiliate of the Alliance for Youth Action. “They also represent the identities we really need more of if our democracy is to be more equitable.”
Nicole Taylor, a senior program manager at the Andrew Goodman Foundation, said: “This song and video– packed with the talent of its artists, dancers, and musicians– effectively teaches young people about the evolution of the Constitution as it relates to voting rights and communicates the responsibility of us ALL to vote.”
When Shane was searching for a musical collaborator, a friend and colleague at the American Constitution Society introduced him to Ryan Snow, a young lawyer with the Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Snow had worked for a decade as a professional trombonist, composer, and teacher before going to law school. Snow recommended Shane pursue his idea with Johnny Butler, a Brooklyn-based saxophonist, composer, producer, and teacher, who was his good friend from their days together at Oberlin.
The Grammy Award-winning Butler was immediately enthusiastic about the project. After hearing Shane recite the words, he decided to build the song on the famous “Funky Drummer” beat invented by Clyde Ferguson. Johnny recruited vocalists and musicians to complete the jazzy soundtrack.
Amid the COVID-19 shelter-at-home protocols, Shane came up with the idea of using a diverse group of dancers and dance styles to convey the song’s message of inclusion. Butler then reached out to fellow New Yorkers Audrey Rachelle and Alex Jenkins, working together as AnA Collaborations, to direct the video’s choreography, and to Brooklynite Arielle Apfel, who handled the video’s intricate editing.
Shane said that, at its best, the story of the Constitution is a story about the struggle to make our government more just and more inclusive—a story every American is entitled to be part of. One imperative way for all Americans to connect to that story is by voting.
Shane and Butler are publishing their song under a Creative Commons license, allowing others to remix, adapt, and build upon the work non-commercially if they credit the copyright holder and license their new creations under the identical terms. “We would be thrilled if others decided to build their own get-out-the-vote and civic engagement projects using our song,” Shane said.
The video can be viewed at www.theconstitutionsong.org, which also helps direct viewers to information about voting and voter protection. An “annotated lyrics” page explains the historical references behind the video, and a “For Further Reading” section provide leads for anyone who wants to take a deeper dive into constitutional history. For more information about The Constitution Song, please contact Peter Shane at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Constitution Song Creative Team
Lyric and Video Concept: Peter M. Shane
Music Composed, Arranged, Recorded and Mixed by Johnny Butler
Video Produced and Directed by Johnny Butler and Peter M. Shane
Editor: Arielle Apfel
Movement Direction and Choreography: AnA Collaborations
Video Colorist: Ace Salisbury
Logo, Campaign Buttons, and Video Credits Design: Eric Conrad
Drums: Charles Ferguson
Guitar: Jonathan Goldberger
Piano: Alex Scherber
Saxophone: Johnny Butler
Trombone: Kevin Moehringer
Trumpet: Carter Yasutake
Banjo: Rachel Eddy
Vocals: Ruben Acosta, Kalen Lister, DJ Due Process
Dancers: Marissa Acevedo, Carollily, Nate Carter, Charles Gibson,Emily Hammond, Carina Ho, Chinchin Hsu, Michele Lee, Alex Jenkins, Nicholas Korkos, Audrey Rachelle, Kelsey Rondeau, Omar Rivera, Amadi Washington, Debra Zalkind