DERRY — It was a musical collaboration with many "unforgettable" moments.
For Derry students involved in a partnership with the rock band Godsmack and its founder and front man Salvatore "Sully" Erna, seeing the final product cemented that fact.
The new video of the band's song "Unforgettable" from the album "When Legends Rise" is now released and students who were part of the project are saying it was a lifetime chance that gave them great opportunities and something they won't forget anytime soon.
For Erna, it was the next step on a project the Lawrence native hoped would inspire students to truly appreciate what music can do. His connections to Derry have been strong for years.
The musician has ties to Community Alliance for Teen Safety, an organization working to support youth with making safe life decisions.
Two years ago, Erna and Godsmack came to Derry and joined with 20 middle school students from both Hood and West Running Brook to record backup vocals for the song “Unforgettable.”
Students were then invited to appear during a Godsmack performance at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford, New Hampshire. Each student received a vinyl copy of the album signed by the band.
When it was time to produce the video for "Unforgettable," Erna and his band returned to Derry this past February to do some preliminary video work, with hundreds of middle-schoolers now involved in this phase of the project.
Some students involved with Erna two years ago were invited back. The final video session took bus loads of students to the Southern New Hampshire University Arena in Manchester for the final recording.
For Erna, it was all about the music while growing up in Lawrence — an outlet to bring him back from sometimes dangerous behaviors he found himself falling into.
“Growing up I had every challenge in the world,” Erna said during his visit in February. “Fights, drugs bringing you down the wrong path. I got really good at being bad. Thankfully, I had music in my life.”
Many said the Godsmack experience was life changing.
Sophie Olson, 15, now attends Pinkerton Academy and was part of the original 20 students two years ago that began the journey with Erna and Godsmack.
She said seeing the final video product of "Unforgettable" was a completion of a great project.
"It was really cool to be part of it," Sophie said. "We had so much fun recording and going on stage when we were in the eighth grade. It's incredible to see the video now and I'm happy Sully included so many more students so we all could share this 'unforgettable' experience."
Adam Carvalho, 16, was also part of the original 20 and said Erna and Godsmack truly changed his life.
"Music has always made me feel good and free and I've always been thankful for that," he said. "I love listening to the song and watching the video to re-live all our crazy adventures. Sully gave me and the others a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I can't thank him enough. I feel so blessed to have had all those experiences and I'll never forget them."
Some students hope to follow music's path into a future career.
"Working with Godsmack has been a really great learning experience," said 16-year-old Lorrie Stevens, one of the original group of 20 students. "Even from the beginning, over two years ago, we all got a brief glimpse into the music industry and what actually goes into recording a song. It really just solidified for me that this is what I want to do with my career."
Karina Schoff, 16, called her experience a dream come true.
"Sully has done so much for the kids," she said "He's watched us grow for years now. The opportunity he gave us is so much more than I could ever hope for. And Sully (and Godsmack) showed me that we learn from our mistakes and we can make a positive impact on the world. I hope they know how much they have changed my life for the better."
Madi Connors, a sophomore at Pinkerton Academy, said the experience was definitely "unforgettable."
"Sully and the entire Godsmack band have left me with amazing memories as well as a better outlook on life and our futures," she said. "I definitely take great pride in knowing that I was part of this project and it is something I get to keep as a part of me for the rest of my life."
"Listening to Sully tell us about how music impacted his life really made me think about how it was impacting mine as well," Madi said.
For West Running Brook seventh-grader Victoria Paradise, it was a chance to discover just how important music is.
"I am so glad that I was able to have this experience," Victoria said. "Being able to be part of something like that really showed me how powerful music can be. I will never forget how much fun I had, and no one should ever forget how important music really is."
Erna called music a “universal gift” and something students should strive to hold on to, no matter what their future paths hold.
“You are going to pass that on to your kids someday,” Erna said during his visit to Derry in February, recalling his own family’s deep ties to music. “And focus on things that make you feel amazing. Find what it is that grabs you and spend time mastering it. Be great at what you do, and for me, it was music. That’s the thing that will save your life someday.”