Utah Symphony musicians bring music to students in Haiti
Fundraiser will be held at Susan Swartz Studios
Throughout the past 75 yeas, the Utah Symphony has brought music, culture and joy to audiences all around the world.
This year, members the Grammy Award-nominated and International Gustav Mahler Society award-winning orchestra will travel to Jacmel, Haiti, from March 26 to April 2, and teach more than 100 Haitian-bred musicians during a week-long workshop for the First Haitian National Orchestra Institute held at the Dessaix-Baptiste Music School.
The workshop is the result of partnership with BLUME Haiti, a nonprofit based in Wisconsin that is dedicated to strengthening Haiti’s socio-economic fabric through classical music.
BLUME is an acronym that stands for Building Leaders Using Music Education.
A fundraiser will be held at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 8, at Susan Swartz Studios, 260 Main St., to help facilitate room, board and food for both the students and teachers, said Utah Symphony board member Joanne Shiebler.
“It will be a lovely afternoon,” Shiebler told The Park Record. “What’s more inviting than to have beautiful music performed by incredibly talented musicians and enjoy what I call ‘amazing eye candy’ created by Susan.”
The fundraiser’s format will follow a similar event that Shiebler helped organize at Diane Stewart’s Modern West Fine Art Gallery in Salt Lake City last month.
“The format included a social hour with beverages and appetizers and guests could view wonderful art in the gallery and hear a program of music,” Shiebler said. “We had close to 50 people attend the event and it was very successful.”
The cost is $125 per person and reservations are being accepted by the Susan Swartz Studio manager Amy Brownstein by email at email@example.com.
“This is, of course, tax deductible,” Shiebler said. “While we don’t have a way to accept credit cards, we ask people to pay by cash or by check.”
If people want to pay by cash, they can email in their reservation and pay at the door.
“They will then receive an acknowledgment letter from the Utah Symphony,” Shiebler said. “If paying by check, the checks need to be made out to the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera and write BLUME Haiti in the memo line.”
The overall goal is to raise $20,000, said workshop organizer and Utah Symphony cellist John Eckstein.
“The money raised will go toward room and board for the kids who are coming from areas outside of Jacmel that will participate in the program, as well as housing and travel for the Utah Symphony contingent who are going to Haiti to teach,” Eckstein said.
Eckstein was inspired to organize the workshop by his friend Janet Anthony, a fellow cellist and founder of BLUME Haiti.
“Janet got involved with Haiti through teaching music classes there 20 years ago and she devotes all of her spare time — all of her summers and most Christmas breaks — teaching there,” Eckstein said.
Last year, Eckstein and his two colleagues, violinist Yuki MacQueen and oboist James Hall, taught some classes in Haiti.
“We had a remarkable time,” Eckstein said. “While it wasn’t easy, the kids were wonderful, as was the faculty.”
Like any volunteer program, however, the musicians who participate come and go.
“So, I mused on the idea that I know a lot of people who know their instruments and these kids could use their help,” Eckstein said. “I got this idea of bringing in a full orchestra of dedicated kids, who are in their teens and early 20s, from all over Haiti, and taking a team of musicians from here to teach them.”
Eckstein mentioned the idea to a few of his Utah Symphony friends.
“It came clear almost immediately that they weren’t just interested in going, but also going over the one relief week we have during the year,” he said. “The Utah Symphony plays hundreds of concerts during a year and we have one relief week each year for our break in March.
“I found that the musicians I talked with were willing to take that week to go to Haiti and teach these kids and pay their own way on top of that,” Eckstein said. “When I realized they were that willing to do this, I knew I needed to talk with Janet about this.”
Anthony pledged BLUME Haiti’s assistance in finding venues and communicating with the schools in Haiti that would get in touch with the students who would be participating in the workshop.
“The students are coming from all over Haiti,” Eckstein said. “Some of them are teachers themselves and they will take the things they learn back to their own students.”
The original plan was for Utah Symphony musicians to teach one-on-one lessons, but then Utah Symphony Music Director Thierry Fischer got involved.
“We had a total of 15 Utah Symphony members going, and since there were so many of us, I thought I had better talk with Maestro Fischer, because these musicians were all members of his orchestra,” Eckstein said with a laugh. “I sent him an email that outlined the project and goals.”
Fischer asked to meet with Eckstein and MacQueen.
“Yuki had made a bound picture book of our trip we took with James and took it into the Maestro’s office,” Eckstein said. “As we started to talk about the project, we noticed he was looking intently at the kids on the cover of the book.”
Before Fischer opened the book, he told Eckstein and MacQueen, who are married, that he wanted to go with them to Haiti.
“We were delighted to have him not only support us, but come with us,” Eckstein said.
Fischer will work with the students as a full orchestra to prepare for a concert that will be held on Friday, March 31.
“This will be the concert of the First Haitian National Orchestral Institute,” Eckstein said.
The concert will also feature a number conducted by Fischer’s assistant, Canes Nicolas.
“Interestingly, Canes came up through the Haiti music program and is, by coincidence, a visiting professor at Southern Utah University,” Eckstein said.
Eckstein feels duty bound to share his love of music in other ways than just performing.
“We all want to help make the world a better place,” he said. “While we can’t all be doctors and nurses, we, as musicians, can do this and provide opportunities for kids who want to play music.”
A chamber-music fundraiser will be held at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 8, at Susan Swartz Studios, 260 Main St. Tickets are $125. Reservations can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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