A group of Utah Symphony musicians, along with music director Thierry Fischer and a luthier, will head to Haiti in March 2017 on a service mission to bring classical music training to 100 young Haitian-born instrumentalists. A Caribbean island nation situated 900 miles off the coast of Miami, Haiti has long had a difficult political and social economy, and was one of the regions hard hit by Hurricane Matthew in October. The Utah group will work with BLUME Haiti (Building Leaders Through Music Education), an organisation that utilises teachers, staff and students to provide programmes via the provision of instruments and curriculum development. The trip was spearheaded by Utah Symphony cellist John Eckstein, who, having experienced teaching in Haiti himself, set about getting his colleagues on board – including director Thierry Fischer.
‘When the opportunity was presented to me to join 14 of our Utah Symphony musicians in Haiti to share our musical knowledge, I did not hesitate in saying yes,’ said Fischer, who will conduct a concert with Haitian student musicians. ‘I felt it was so important to participate in sharing the transformative gift of classical music and am humbled [by] the chance to make a lasting impact on the music students of Haiti.’
The group will create the first Haitian National Orchestral Institute, a week-long workshop for top Haitian music students running from 27 March to 1 April to be held at the Dessaix-Baptiste Music School in the country’s capital city, Jacmel. Every section of the orchestra – with the exception of tuba and harp – will be represented in the group of Utah Symphony musicians who will personally fund the trip. Said Eckstein: ‘I was overwhelmed that so many said they would spend their vacation time and own money to go and do this. I think it shows you the reasons
are compelling and what we get out of it far exceeds what we put into it. What motivates us is basic humanity and the chance to make a difference in other people’s lives that is motivating us all to say “yes, this is worthwhile to do”.’
Salt Lake City-based luthier J P Lucas will join the group to teach string instrument repair. Haitian-born conductor Canes Nicolas, who is currently a visiting professor of music at Southern Utah University, will travel to his home nation to act as an assistant to Fischer. ‘Music is a key pillar of cultural expression in Haiti: indeed, we have seen over and over again the transformative power of music and know what an impact the Haitian National Orchestral Institute will have on the lives of the participants,’ added BLUME Haiti founder Janet Anthony, who is a music professor at Lawrence University Conservatory of Music in Wisconsin.
The group aims to raise USD20,000 (€18,860) to help fund travel and housing expenses for 100 Haitian music students selected from across the country to attend the workshop in Jacmel. Online
contributions may be made at www.usuo.org/give (include ‘BLUME Haiti’ in the note section).