Renowned violinist Hilary Hahn will perform at a fundraiser hosted by Utah Symphony musicians |

Renowned violinist Hilary Hahn will perform at a fundraiser hosted by Utah Symphony musicians

Event will benefit the Haitian Orchestra Institute

World-renowned violinist Hilary Hahn will be the headline performer at a Sept. 14 fundraiser hosted by Utah Symphony musicians at Goldener Hirsch Residences at Deer Valley’s Silver Lake. The event will benefit the Haitian Orchestra Institute.
Photo by Dana van Leeuwen

Civil unrest and the coronavirus pandemic in Haiti over the past two years have prevented Utah Symphony musicians from going on their annual spring trips to work with music teachers and students at the Haitian Orchestra Institute.

Still, these challenges haven’t discouraged cellist John Eckstein and violinist Yuki MacQueen from planning a new music-training trip to the country with their colleagues in the spring of 2022.

They are hosting a Sept. 14 fundraiser, featuring award-winning violinist Hilary Hahn, to benefit the institute’s students.

The fundraiser is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. with a social hour at the new Goldener Hirsch Residences at Deer Valley’s Silver Lake, said Utah Symphony | Utah Opera trustee Joanne Shiebler, who is the chair of Haitian Orchestra Institute.

“The evening will start with two amateur violinists who will greet the guests with fiddle music, which will be a complete contrast to the performance Hilary Hahn will play later that evening,” Shiebler said. “It will be a fun way to start the night.”

Attendees will also enjoy a light buffet of hors d’oeuvres and drinks, and the performance by Hahn, she said.

MacQueen is grateful Hahn, who will open the Utah Symphony’s 2021-22 season the following weekend, agreed to participate in the fundraiser.

“She just doesn’t do anything that comes her way,” MacQueen said. “She did a lot of research and asked us some very probing questions. So it is an honor that she is doing this for us.”

Hahn was 11 when she performed with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, her major-orchestra debut, in 1991. Since then she’s performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

She has also commissioned works by such modern-day composers as Du Yun, Edgar Meyer and Jennifer Higdon. The Higdon work, Violin Concerto Monday, won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music.

“Having someone such as Hilary in a setting like this instead of a 3,000-seat concert hall is rare,” Eckstein said. “We are delighted.”

All the funds from ticket sales will go to the institute’s programs, according to Eckstein.

“The way we operate is that this is an entirely volunteer effort,” he said. “Every ticket sale and donation will go to hard costs that will pay for the expenses of up to two students’ participation in the program. It will pay for their travel, room and board and supplies.”

Eckstein, along with BLUME Haiti, conceived the Haitian Orchestra Institute, also known as HOI, in 2017. The concept created an advanced musical-training platform that would provide upwards of 100 musicians and teachers in Haiti with intensive orchestral and instrumental training from Utah Symphony musicians.

BLUME is an acronym for Building Leaders Using Music Education, Eckstein said.

“When I originally discussed the idea with my colleagues, the response was a universal, ‘I’d love to,’ even though the sessions would take place during their times off, and they would have to pay and make their own travel arrangements,” he said.

The musicians are usually in Haiti for about a week, but the training is intense, Eckstein said.

In a single day, students participate in sectionals, where musicians playing one instrument will work on their parts for an orchestral performance at the end of the week, and they get to rehearse with Utah Symphony Music Director Thierry Fisher and his assistant, he said.

“The last one we did, the orchestra performed almost the entire Tchaikovsky Fifth Symphony,” Eckstein said. “That’s heavy lifting for even a conservatory orchestra to do in two weeks, and they did it in one with people they’ve never met before.”

In addition, students will do pedagogy training, which is the theory and practice of teaching, he said.

“Through pedagogical training, the HOI generates an extraordinary ripple effect,” Eckstein said. “The musicians who participate in HOI are all music teachers themselves, and they can then take those lessons to their own students. So, we’re not exporting classical music. We’re taking people who are already studying it and adding a new layer to education opportunities there.”

Getro Joseph, a 19-year-old cellist who teaches more than 30 pre-teen students, has participated in HOI since it began in 2017.

“HOI is a path for musicians in Haiti, because the (Utah Symphony) musicians teach us to understand music, and that helps us to teach others, too,” Joseph said. “There are a lot of (youth) in my country and their futures are not clear, but HOI gives them hope. They believe in it and can’t wait to participate every year.”

HOI also brings Hatian musicians together from around the country, something that doesn’t happen often, because Haiti is divided in regions they call departments, which is kind of similar to states, MacQueen said.

“Usually the people from different departments don’t mingle,” she said. “So this is a way that musicians from all over can meet each other in a musical context and perform together.”

While Haiti doesn’t have a national orchestra, the HOI orchestra is the next best thing, Eckstein said.

“The students came up with this idea,” he said. “It wouldn’t have to meet all the time, just a few times a year to give students in different cities a reward for their musical endeavors.”

Still, HOI has done wonders for Joseph and his students.

“For my country it is a positive thing, because HOI puts us all together and helps change our mentality,” he said. “We find that we can do great things together. And that gives us hope.”

As of now, Eckstein, MacQueen and Shiebler are looking to head to the Haitian city of Cap-Haitien, which is a five-hour drive from Port-au-Prince, on March 27.

And while it is safe for Americans arriving and leaving the country, civil unrest has made it difficult for students to travel across the country, MacQueen said.

“We may have to fly some students from Jacmel to Port-au-Prince and put them on a bus to Cap-Haitien,” Eckstein said.

MacQueen would like to see the HOI programs grow after having to put things on hold.

“The first year we did this no one had heard about it, because it was new, but the second year we had many more auditions,” she said. “My hope is that even more people will audition in the future, because as they prepare for the auditions, they will better the level of music and their playing.”

Haitian Orchestra Institute Fundraiser featuring Hilary Hahn

When: 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 14

Where: Goldener Hirsch Residences at Deer Valley’s Silver Lake




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