News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
President John F. Kennedy's assassination is an unforgettable part of Dallas' history.Nearly 54 years later, scholars and enthusiasts alike are still processing details from that fateful drive through Dealey Plaza now that the remaining investigation files have been unsealed. For the 50th anniversary in 2013, KERA produced special stories and reports from the commemoration:The 50th: Remembering John F. Kennedy was KERA's live, two-hour special covering the official commemoration event at Dealey Plaza in Dallas on Nov. 22, 2013. Hosted by Krys Boyd and Shelley Kofler, the special includes reports from KERA reporters before the ceremony begins. Listen to the special here.Bells tolled across the city, and the event featured historian David McCullough, who read from Kennedy’s presidential speeches; Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings; religious leaders; the U.S. Naval Academy Men’s Glee Club; and a moment of silence. Read highlights from the event from KERA's live blog from that day.Throughout the month, KERA posted an online series called 22 Days In November, which takes a closer look at that fateful day, what it meant to the country and how it affected Dallas.We shared stories and memories in a series called “JFK Voices.” Explore our archives below.

A Younger Generation Honors The Sixth Floor Museum And JFK

Stella M. Chávez
Nicola Longford, CEO of the Sixth Floor Museum, commissioned Jesus Martinez to write a musical piece commemorating the museum's 30th anniversary. Martinez grew up learing about JFK from his family.

Growing up in South Texas, Jesus Martinez heard a lot about President John F. Kennedy. His mom was a huge fan of the late president and former first lady. She read the book, "Letters to Jackie, Condolences From a Grieving Nation” and even named Martinez’s sister, “Jacqueline.”

“If you go down to the Rio Grande Valley, you talk about President Kennedy and people almost kind of immortalize him. They love him,” said Martinez. “And a lot of people weren’t even alive around that time.”

So Martinez, a composer and assistant band director at Sam Houston High School in Arlington, couldn’t exactly say “no” when the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza approached him about composing a piece for the museum’s thirtieth anniversary.

CEO Nicola Longford wanted something that would draw a younger crowd. The idea thrilled 31-year-old Martinez and also amped up the pressure.

“I felt it was necessary for me, who is a non-rememberer, was born 24 years after the event, to sort of mimic some of the ideas that was going on, some of the chaos that was going on,” Longford said.

That’s the start of the piece titled “The Sixth Floor,” which is arranged in three movements: “Sniper’s Perch,” “A Nation in Crisis” and “The Legacy.”

“Part of the work is meant to be very programmatic and very vivid, as well as going through the course of mourning and then lastly, ending in a very hopeful sense to hopefully inspire newer generations,” Martinez said.

Credit Stella M. Chávez / KERA News
The Julius Quartet, the Peak Fellowship Ensemble-in-Residence at SMU's Meadows School of the Arts, performed the composition, "The Sixth Floor," on Presidents Day at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. From left: violinists Hyun Jeong Helen Lee and David Do, cellist Brooke Scholl and violist John Batchelder.

Three decades after the museum opened, it continues to attract people from all over the world, Longford said. But she’d like to see more younger people, like middle and high school students, visit the museum.

She also wants visitors to understand that the Sixth Floor isn’t stuck in 1963, when he was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald.

“At first when it opened 30 years ago, there was a great deal of sensitivity and some ambivalence as to why we were doing this and who we were going to serve and certainly not to continue after 30 years,” Longford said.

Martinez wrote the piece for The Julius Quartet. The young musicians are the Peak Fellowship Ensemble-in-Residence at the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University. They performed the composition at the museum on Feb. 18 — Presidents Day.

Longford says the power of the newly-composed piece comes from a collaboration between musicians who weren’t even born when Kennedy was killed.

“Jesus’ piece, his composition, was very thoughtful and reflective, and [it’s] just marvelous that a young person was sophisticated in taking a delicate piece of history and crafting it into something inspiring,” she said.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.