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Coping creatively: MSU student turns 'Spartan Strong' into an uplifting song

March 13, 2023
Photo courtesy of Joseph Roy.
Photo courtesy of Joseph Roy.

The days following the Feb. 13 mass shooting on Michigan State University's campus left some students feeling uncomfortable, unsafe or in need of support.

One student turned to his music to both help himself heal and inspire healing in others who had a similar experience.  

Media and information senior Joseph Roy wrote and released a song to comfort the Spartan community. Roy, who uses the moniker J Roy, has been making music since he was 10 years old, shortly after his father died in 2011.

Roy has also been a part of the United States Navy as an IT worker since 2017, for which he has traveled to Italy, San Diego and Florida. He was also on the Netflix show “Rhythm and Flow,” where he rapped in front of Chance the Rapper and other artists as a contestant. Despite these achievements, Roy said writing and publishing the song for the Spartan community is one of his most memorable moments so far. 

Roy’s song, titled “I Believe (#SpartanStrong)” was released on Feb. 18. He started the project two days after the shooting. He said writing is an outlet for his thoughts and opinions.

“I knew right when it happened that I was going to need to make a song because that’s just kind of how I vent,” Roy said. “I’m always making music to get myself through something.”

Roy was confident that the song was needed to voice the thoughts and feelings of those who were affected by the shooting.

“I wanted to make sure I wrote something that resonated well with everyone,” Roy said.

The lyrics underline the importance of the Spartan community coming together to move forward, but he wanted to make it clear in his writing that it’s normal for students to be scared.

The song includes the names of the three students who were killed in the shooting, Arielle Anderson, Brian Fraser and Alexandria Verner. Roy said it was necessary to include their names because “whoever hears (the names) should never forget.”

“We are grieving but if we stick together, we can pull through, we just have to believe in each other,” Roy said.

The lyrics that are the most personal to Roy depict his experience driving through campus days after the shooting, seeing The Rock on Farm Lane, the Spartan Statue — and virtually no students. He said he could only hear silence.

"So silent that you can hear the wind / When you don’t feel like going to school again," Roy sings.

Since he released the song, he has received positive messages from students and parents. He said some of the messages explain how the song has “given them a sense of hope and a sense of comfort.”

“I want to work on being more of a voice for my community,” Roy said. “I think it’s really been helping heal the Spartan community, which is really what my initial goal was.”

Roy said he expects to put out more songs about the shooting, grieving and the Spartan community in general. He is currently writing a song that is “covering the things that we go through,” which includes “anxiety and depression.”

Though he is grateful for the response his music has received, Roy said he ultimately strives for normalcy and unity. 

“We can’t do this without each other,” he said. “We’re going to be okay as long as we stick together and have some hope.” 

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