From BLUME Haiti President Janet Anthony
Greetings from Carrefour, Haiti, where we just arrived to support the last week of the Catherine Flon Music School summer camp after wrapping up three weeks in Jacmel, Haiti at the Dessaix-Baptiste Music School for their summer camp. The students and faculty put on a fantastic final recital and concert.
For several of our BLUME Haiti board members, the summer started June 19 with the CEMUCHCA Institute of Music summer camp in Terrier Rouge. BLUME Haiti sponsored a two-week violin pedagogy seminar led by Paul Manulik of the Princeton String Academy. Students attended from around the country and learned a great deal about how to teach beginning violinists.
We also welcomed the first two of five members of The Global Leaders Program — an initiative of YOA Orchestra of the Americas in partnership with McGill and Oxford Universities. Usman Peguero, violin, was in Haiti for six weeks and taught at four different camps; Ramon Thiago, oboe, stayed for four weeks, taught at two camps and spearheaded the first International Oboe Workshop.
“Pappy” Ramon, along with “uncle” James from the Utah Symphony, are responsible for developing the current generation of Haitian oboists. Thirteen players from seven different programs located all over the country participated in the workshop. Band conductors at the various camps all commented that they had rarely seen so many oboists in their ensembles!
After a very successful camp at CEMUCHCA, we loaded onto buses at 3:00AM for the long trip to Grand Goave where the Holy Trinity Music camp was located this summer. Board president, Janet Anthony, was joined by board members Lindsay Schwartz and Keith Johnston. Lindsay stepped up to fill the shoes of the long-time camp director, John Jost, who was unable to be with us this summer and did a fantastic job – we are all very proud of the work she did and her ability to keep lots of different constituencies content. Brava Lindsay!
At the Holy Trinity camp we were joined by another YOA Global Leader, Joel MacDonald, making his second trip to Haiti. Joel and Usman also spent a week at the Academie Musicale Occide Jeanty camp in Croix-des-Bouquets and the oboe workshop continued through the very end of July.
At the beginning of August, Janet, Usman and Joel went on to Jacmel, home of the Dessaix-Baptiste Music School to teach at their three-week camp. Though neither Joel nor Usman could stay for the entire camp, we were joined by two more Global Leaders, Debbie Larsen and Danielle Cho, who have been doing great work with their charges. Danielle’s trip to Haiti was also supported by the Fulbright Association (YOA partner) and the Robert & Mercedes Eicholz Foundation (Sponsor) – we very much appreciate their support of music programs in Haiti!
To our great shock and dismay, in August we learned of the sudden passing of volunteer piano teacher, Shane Summers, Director of Collaborative Piano at Southern Utah University, who was with us for his second summer at the Cemuchca Camp. His students there, along with the staff and volunteers, send our thoughts and prayers of comfort to his family and friends.
Almost all the international volunteers have now returned to their respective countries as of the 21stt but Janet, Debbie and Laura Hauer, a volunteer now living and playing with an orchestra in Mexico, will continue on to one more camp. The Catherine Flon Music School will have several hundred children at camp in Carrefour just outside the capital. We have invited clarinetists, violinists and cellists from across the region to come have lessons with us during the last week of August and, in addition to teaching theory and conducting, will work with their orchestras, bands and choirs.
It has been a busy but very fulfilling summer. Stay tuned for more information in our end of summer newsletter!
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This summer marked my 7th year working with the Holy Trinity Music School. Although it was one of my shortest trips to Haiti, it was filled with so many wonderful experiences. I find myself reflecting on the three weeks more and more now that my regular public school teaching job has started back up again.
One of my favorite parts of this summer was getting to work with a ginormous string orchestra, the Petite Orchestre de Chambre (POC). I have been working with this group every summer since I first came to Haiti in 2008, but this year the group topped 55 students! We barely fit in the Kindergarten space we had for rehearsal. We also had more new students than returning students. Although Haitian names can be unusual for Americans, I did my best to learn all 55 by the end of day 2. The students were so eager to play that we had no trouble getting our first week concert music together. I could hear them practicing the music all day long during their personal practice time.
We were lucky enough to have a large group of volunteers from the Youth Orchestra of the Americas come to help for 3 days during the first week. The students got so many private lessons and small group lessons it was unbelievable! Students probably had 4-5 lessons the first week alone. For the 2nd week a group of young musicians from Spain came to teach for 2 weeks as well as Canes Nicholas, a Haitian conductor and good friend. They were phenomenal teachers and gave the POC students many lessons and sectionals. This summer had the most string teachers I have ever seen in Haiti since I have been coming! Normally I end up teaching many different instrument lessons and sectionals, but this summer I was way less overloaded and it was a good thing since I ended up getting the dreaded Chickungunya disease. It was not very much fun. I had to stay in bed for the first concert and was sick for most of the 2nd week. I was so grateful when my good friend and fellow BLUME Haiti Board member Jordan King came to help out with POC rehearsals and sectionals. We have both been working with the POC for a long time and it was great to be back together teaching.
The POC put on 3 incredible concerts and I was extremely proud of all their hard work and accomplishments. Sometimes in the United States my students take music class for granted and complain (a lot) about playing their instruments. While this is not all students in the US, it is certainly the attitude of many. Working with my students in the POC reminds me that there are students who truly love music and really appreciate their ability to play an instrument. It’s not just another activity for them. My Haitian students ask for more and more lessons, not how they can get out of playing. It’s such a refreshing experience for an American teacher. I miss my POC students all the time and keep a picture of them on my desk at school to remind me why I became an orchestra teacher. I am already planning pieces of music to bring for next summer. Let the countdown begin!
Ambassadors Music Institute (so called as its participants are called to be "ambassadors" of Jesus) has always had a special place in my heart. Located in middle-class Croix-des-Bouquets, its student population nonetheless is overwhelmingly composed of students accepted despite the fact their families can't afford tuition. If only US music schools could match that commitment to access regardless of economic circumstances! In fact, about one third of the students don't have families, or at least don't live with them, as they come from a nearby orphanage. Two years ago, I spent two weeks staying at the orphanage, and I was very moved by the care their dedicated staff provided, headed by Pastor Lucien Almanord. I was also struck by the way the teens carried themselves with self-discipline, dignity, and self-respect. That's a hard combination to find among teens in any country under any circumstances. And the young ones are so darn cute - I carry them in my heart. The orphanage and the school are both connected to the Body of Christ church, which is like a Pentecostal church with a few theological differences. I love the style of worship there that focuses on the heart and not just the head. I wish I had had more time to spend teaching my friend Edline, a young woman from the orphanage who, after receiving a violin last summer, spent the year teaching herself all of Suzuki Violin Book 1! Bravissima, Edline! I'm sure I could not have accomplished that feat, let alone with such musicianship.
Speaking of incredibly talented young women, BLUME's president Janet Anthony (and my former cello teacher) managed to track down the young composer Sabrina C. D. Jean-Louis for me so she could sign a contract so I can record her work through Crossing Borders Music Collective. Sabrina is a largely self-taught composer and has a genius for it. The score of her work for full orchestra, "The Survivors," brought me to tears - maybe to no surprise, given that I later learned it was written to capture her feelings just after the 2010 earthquake. Sabrina learned Western-style music at the Dessaix Baptiste school in the beautiful coastal town of Jacmel.
I had the pleasure of returning to the Fondation Ste. Cecile summer camp this year. This program, which includes a full orchestra, has very limited resources and yet provides music education to perhaps 150 students and a daily meal during the summer camp weeks, really making the most of what it has. The director, Jeoboham Pierre, is a master drummer, and I managed to receive one lesson from him while I was there, and then spent much time banging my hands on the drum head and my head against a wall while trying to recreate the sounds he
made that made the drum talk, and made one drum sound like three instruments playing simultaneously.
Since I have a usable Haitian drum back here in the US, I hope that, with enough hours' practice, I might be able to learn to do what he showed in that one lesson! One thing that strikes me is the similarity of learning cello and Haitian or African drumming - Jeoboham stressed that it wasn't just about learning the notes or the rhythms and going through the motions, but immersing oneself in the rich sonorities that give it life - a task he says he's still working on! I feel the same way about cello. Truly, a musician's learning is never complete.
This summer I wish I could have returned to the Othello Bayard school in Les Cayes, a beautiful city near the coast in the west. The
director there, Macome, enjoyed taking me to the beach and ordering for me tom-tom soup at a restaurant, so that Tom could eat tom-tom. I
must say, it was delicious! Macome impressed me with his open communication style - communicating with parents, students, staff, and community partners so that the school's relations with all those stakeholders stayed healthy. For example, I sat in on a meeting where he and the orchestra director met with an official of the local cathedral to discuss music selections for a special holiday mass in which the school orchestra would perform. Not everyone would take the trouble to meet in person to discuss details of repertoire, but doing so meant everyone knew just what to expect on the big day. I remember a similar meeting Macome held with the school staff to discuss the camp food. Great leadership! And, a great and growing music program.
Written by Tom Clowes
Cap Haitian is a city of deep history and wonderful beauty on Haiti’s northern coast. The city sits on the beautiful Caribbean sea and is surrounded by a dramatic backdrop of mountains inland. Although I had traveled to Haiti multiple times before this summer, this was my first visit to the country’s northern region and my first experience with the wonderful music school located in Cap Haitian.
The Circle of Christian Musicians of Cap-Haitian, best known by it’s creole acronym “CEMUCHCA,” has developed their school of music in a relatively short time since formally organizing in 2004. To best serve students, they developed an annual summer music camp which was in it’s forth incarnation this June. The level of progress made in all areas of the school in that time is remarkable and is testament to the sincere passion for making music of the students and staff at the school.
In each of my experiences teaching in Haiti, I have found an extraordinary passion for learning in all people, and the students at CEMUCHCA were no exception. Despite the school’s very limited resources, it was inspiring to see students make the most of every learning opportunity made available. I had the pleasure of working with a group of intermediate strings students who took great pride in our music making. When given break time, students instead took their instrument and continued to practice on their own.
Seeing this tenacity in each of my students, I took great pleasure in seeing the materials, which were generously donated by music retailers from across the US, being put in the hands of these students. The members of BLUME-Haiti are humbled by the generosity shown to support the music programs in Haiti this summer. Among the large quantity of donations this year, we were pleased to receive more than 200 bows provided by Antonio Violins (Cincinatti, Ohio), many instrument cases and accessories from The Loft Violin Shop (Columbus, Ohio), additional string instrument accessories from Johnson String Instruments (Newton Center, MA), four violins and two violas from Clemens Violins (St. Louis, MO), and two cellos from String Works (Appleton, WI). In addition, a great amount of quality sheet music was donated by J.W. Pepper (Paoli, CA), Kjos Music Company (San Diego, CA), and Yesterday Music Supply (Cambridge, MA). Having the opportunity to realize the benefit of these donations by putting them in the hands of students in Haiti is an enormously gratifying experience.
Every summer I reflect on my trip to Haiti and realize that I have learned more than I could have possibly taught my students in the time I was there. Haiti’s passionate people and vibrant culture are unlike any other I have experienced. I return to the US as an educator with a heightened worldview, reenergized passion for teaching, and an obligation to make the most of any opportunity made available to me.
Board Member, BLUME-Haiti
Summer Music Camp Blog