On Nov. 26, 2011, during a flight to Orlando, first-year Dov Brenner had the sudden idea to take on an endeavor which the likes of musical artists such as the Who and Pink Floyd have undertaken — writing a rock opera. Brenner, who has always been a fan of rock operas, such as The Who’s Tommy and Green Day’s American Idiot, needed a creative venture to keep him productive over this past winter break.
“[While sitting next to my dad in the plane], I turned to him and said ‘I think I’m going to write a rock opera,’” Brenner said. “He kind of looked at me in disbelief and said, ‘Okay, Dov.’”
He received similar reactions from others who did not believe he would go through with it. Brenner even for a time doubted he would be able to finish the project.
“I wrote the first two songs pretty smoothly and was really confident, but at the same time I may have written 14 songs my entire life,” Brenner recalled. “And now I had two, three months to write a total of 14 songs. I get to the third song, which is about a serious topic, and I just couldn’t get through it. That was the first time when I thought this idea was crazy. [I thought] ‘I’m not going to do it.’” Brenner was able to pull through, and during the process gained support from many people. “It wasn’t a completely smooth process, but it’s been doable,” Brenner said. “It’s one of the most incredible things I’ve done in my life and no question the most incredible thing I’ve done as a musician.”
Brenner performed the finished piece, entitled The Eyes of Roger Miller, on Apr. 27 in front of a full audience at the Sarasota Car Museum. The story chronicles the first 29 years of Roger Miller (not to be confused with the late country singer-songwriter), a half-Jewish, half-Muslim man charged with murdering the love of his life.
“It is kind of a thematic story, and the theme is how someone reacts to events in their lives,” Brenner explained. “For example, his mother [dies] when he is just nine years old and his father becomes an abusive alcoholic to deal with the pain of losing a wife. One thing turns into another thing and he ends up being charged with second degree murder. He reflects upon how he got there.”
Brenner, who is Jewish, was inspired by his own friendship with a Muslim friend to create a character that was half-Jewish and half-Muslim. “We’ve always found it funny that he’s Muslim and I’m Jewish and there is so much conflict between the two religions in the Middle East,” Brenner said. “I just thought, ‘what is a force stronger than hatred?’ It’s love. Roger’s mother, Fatima, and his father, Kurt, love each other. They don’t care that they come from different religions.”
First-year Jessica Loeb found the performance of The Eyes of Roger Miller captivating and musically reminded her of the group Dispatch. “I enjoyed the performance,” Loeb said. “Who would have thought a rock opera?”
Brenner found the overall experience rewarding. “What I’ve realized from just writing 14 songs and getting everyone cohesively together is that I finally understand the saying you can really do anything you put your mind to,” he said.