My good friend and former colleague Dr. John Jost who is the director of choral activities at Bradley University has been working in Haiti for many years building a music educational program. The school that John helped found was completely destroyed. Even so, I want to share with you a letter I received from John and also below are several news clips about the school. Of course basic needs - like food and water and shelter come first - but we are all human beings and we need the arts to channel our creativity to give us a voice of expression and to provide hope. I will mention that I had the honor and opportunity to teach oboe to a young man from Haiti during the last couple years. I am very happy to report that Gerald Jean survived and will be going to Brazil to study oboe in the near future.
Here is the letter from John:
Thank you for your concern about Haiti - many folks have contacted me. The earthquake was devastating. The complex, which houses our music program, was totally destroyed, presumably with all our instruments and equipment, as was the magnificent Episcopal Cathedral and convent. We have heard that almost all of our musician friends are alive, but apparently there was a rehearsal going on at the school and people were pulled from the wreckage. The school buildings and concert shell at our camp in Leogane appear to have been destroyed as well. Tens of thousands in are dead or missing, and there is rubble everywhere.
There has been good news. CNN had a clip about a distraught mother whose 10-year old son, Marc Valens, had been taking violin lessons at our school when the building collapsed. No one seemed to be able to get to him. Marc is also a member of the boychoir, very talented and just a great all-around kid. Later it was discovered that he left the school with another boy before the earthquake and is fine. We now know that one member of the boychoir did not survive – most of the others are accounted for.
One of my first Haitian violin students, Romel Joseph (who is blind but still managed to study at as a Fulbright Scholar and now runs a school in Haiti), was trapped in his house for 18 hours but survived with two fractured legs and a fractured left arm. He was able to get to a hospital and they are giving him a good prognosis.
If anyone wants to help, probably the best way to contribute at this time is through the Red Cross, whose workers are doing what they can amid the chaos and distress, through Doctors Without Borders, Partners for Health, or any other organization you might be aware of that has offices in Haiti. Basic human needs come first. I believe these organizations are doing what they can, though the situation is a logistical nightmare and will be so for a long time.
At some point we will regroup and figure out what to do about the music program - the program has been a tremendous source of encouragement in Haiti and will be again. We mourn for the teachers and students who may not have survived the calamity. But even though 50 years of investment in buildings, equipment, instruments, Haitian music manuscripts, and art work is gone, it all lives on in the lives of two generations of Haitian students and teachers and the scores of volunteers who have helped over the years. Music has always been vitally important in the lives of Haitians, no matter how rich or poor, and will continue to be so in the future.
Your concern, thoughts, and prayers are appreciated.
Co-Director, Holy Trinity School Summer Music Camp
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