In January of 2010 I was invited to teach a Suzuki workshop in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I took the opportunity to visit my former cello professor, Janet Anthony at Lawrence University in nearby Appleton. That was Friday afternoon. The previous Tuesday a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck outside of Leogane, Haiti, not far from the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Professor Anthony had been very personally affected by the quake and its aftermath. For decades now, she has spent a good portion of her summers and her sabbatical terms volunteering at music schools and camps throughout Haiti. When I saw her on that frigid Friday in 2010, she (along with a few Lawrence students who had traveled to Haiti with her) had been on the phone for days trying to find out who among her dear friends, colleagues and students had survived. Of course lines of communication were unreliable at that point, but she knew that the largest music school, Holy Trinity Music School in Port-au-Prince, had been leveled. Fortunately the quake hit after most classes had ended for the day, but there was no way to be sure whether any of the students and faculty might still have been in the building.
The earthquake and ensuing cholera epidemic were just the latest crises in a country whose history is riddled with political upheaval, dictatorships, crime, corruption and abject poverty. Still, a nation birthed by a successful slave revolt in 1804, the Haitian people are filled with hope, love for their culture and country, and an unyielding resolve to create a brighter future. That resolve is evident in the music schools, where the instructors believe that music can be a vehicle by which they can nurture and develop future leaders. Students learn classical, jazz and traditional Caribbean styles, performance, conducting, composition and theory. More importantly, they learn collaboration. They learn to struggle and to persevere. They learn that there are possibilities for their lives beyond what they might otherwise have imagined.
As members of the Suzuki community, we also believe that music can be a powerful tool for social change. We believe in teaching the whole child. “Teaching music is not my main purpose” Dr. Suzuki wrote, “I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.” A child who has developed a skill so difficult and complex as playing a musical instrument to the point of excellence, can one day see even the world’s most seemingly insurmountable problems as ultimately soluble, and that he or she has the capacity to help. That is the gift you are giving your child as a Suzuki parent, and that is the gift we can also help to give the children of Haiti.
The music schools in Haiti receive essentially nothing in the way of government funding, and of course they cannot depend on tuition to cover their operational costs. Instead they must rely heavily on volunteer labor and charitable donations. Organizations like BLUME Haiti (www.blumehaiti.org), of which Janet Anthony is the president, raise money and collect instruments and supplies in order to support the cause of music education throughout Haiti. You can learn more about the music schools in Haiti in this documentary film, Kembe La.
The WSSTE/NSS Cello Program Concert (November 22, 2pm at Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church, 149 Brush Hill Road) will feature a traditional Haitian tune, Bel Ayiti, arranged for cello ensemble as well as Clair de Lune, an original piece composed by a 16-year-old Haitian cellist, Sabrina Jean-Louis. There will also be an opportunity at the concert to make a donation to BLUME Haiti. We hope you can join us and would be very grateful for whatever support you can give. All monetary gifts are tax deductible and will go directly to BLUME Haiti (checks should be made payable to "BLUME Haiti").
We are very excited for this opportunity as a cello program to give back to the broader musical community, and we thank you for your generosity.