Group of Utah Symphony musicians and Music Director Thierry Fischer return to Haiti for music education service project

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (February 26, 2018) – Sixteen Utah Symphony musicians and Music Director Thierry Fischer will return to Haiti for a second year in March 2018 on a service mission to bring classical music training to 100 young Haitian-born musicians from across the island nation. Full video here.

Working in partnership with Building Leaders Using Music Education (BLUME) Haiti, an organization dedicated to strengthening the country’s socio-economic fabric through classical music, Utah Symphony musicians and Maestro Fischer will host a week-long free workshop in Cap Haitien for Haiti’s most dedicated and advanced music students March 25 to 30, 2018. Daily sectionals, private lessons, instrumental pedagogy and full orchestra rehearsals will culminate in a free public performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 conducted by Utah Symphony Music Director Thierry Fischer.

In March 2017, the Utah Symphony musicians hosted the first Haitian National Orchestral Institute at the Dessaix-Baptiste Music School in Jacmel, the vibrant cultural capital of Haiti. The week-long Institute concluded with the Institute Orchestra performance of works by Beethoven, Schubert, Grieg, and Haitian composer Ludovic Lamonthe, led by Maestro Fischer.

Haiti is a Caribbean nation only 900 miles off the coast of Miami, FL that faces immense challenges ranging from natural disasters to political upheaval. It shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic to its east, and was one of the regions hard hit by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

Every section of the orchestra — with the exception of tuba and harp — will be represented in the group of Utah Symphony musicians who are again volunteering their time and expertise during a break from regularly scheduled performances. While the musicians are contributing financially towards their own expenses, the group aims to raise $40,000 to help fund travel and housing expenses for 100+ Haitian music students and teachers selected from across the country to attend the workshop in Cap Haitien. The 2017 Institute included participants representing 19 different schools from across Haiti. Most of the participants are teachers at their own schools, and the Institute is entirely free for all 100+ participants.

“We are all excited to continue the work we started in 2017” said Utah Symphony cellist, John Eckstein, who first volunteered with BLUME Haiti in summer 2016 and has spearheaded the orchestra’s service mission efforts. “The students were selected by audition this year because of high demand, and will include many participants from last year as well as some new faces. Our goal is to create an opportunity that hasn’t previously been available in Haiti, and that is worthy of their talent and dedication. It is an honor to help them.”

The Utah Symphony contingent will be joined this year by bassist Tom Sperl of the Cleveland Orchestra and his wife, oboist Cindy Watson of the Youngstown Symphony. “I feel so blessed to work among colleagues and in an organization that would value this effort so highly,” Mr. Eckstein added. “Members of the Cleveland Orchestra have also been very generous in supporting this effort as well, it’s really unbelievable.”

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, members of the Boston Symphony traveled to Haiti occasionally to work with musicians in Port-au-Prince. The March 2017 service trip by Utah Symphony musicians represented the first time such a large group of professional U.S. orchestra musicians has traveled en masse to mentor young Haitian music students.

“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,” said BLUME Haiti founder Janet Anthony, who is a music professor at Lawrence University Conservatory of Music in Wisconsin.” It is an honor for BLUME Haiti to partner with the Utah Symphony and our Haitian colleagues, as we work together to create an opportunity to transform young lives, to do our part to offer the possibility of change in the life trajectories of our Haitian students.”

In addition to the Utah Symphony musicians, Salt Lake City-based luthier (a builder and repairer of string instruments) J.P. Lucas and Denver-based Evan Orman will join the group to teach string instrument repair. Haitian-born conductor and educator Pierre Leroy will act as assistant to Utah Symphony Music Director Thierry Fischer.

“Music has as much place in a struggling rural village as in a thriving city,” said Maestro Fischer, who worked with Haitian student musicians last year in preparation for leading their concert featuring Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 at the conclusion of the workshop. ”I felt it was so important to participate in sharing the transformative gift of classical music and am humbled for the chance to make a lasting impact on the music students of Haiti. It is an honor for me to pledge my continued support to this important mission.”

Although the Institute is not officially sponsored by Utah Symphony | Utah Opera, musicians are contributing their time, skills and $500 each, and the organization is supportive of the initiative.

“We are inspired and committed to supporting this exciting initiative of our orchestra musicians as they embark upon another humanitarian and educational mission to Haiti. Music is a universal language that breaks down barriers and opens up opportunities,” said Utah Symphony | Utah Opera President and CEO Paul Meecham. “There could be no better example of this in action, as Utah Symphony musicians choose to give of their time, talent and treasure through music to serve communities in need. We are immensely proud of them and Maestro Fischer for their enthusiasm in bringing their knowledge, passion and musical expertise to talented musical youth of Haiti. They will be wonderful ambassadors of Utah Symphony and the State of Utah!”

Fundraising events involving chamber groups playing at art galleries will raise funds to help support travel expenses and housing for 100 Haitian music students from around the country to attend the workshop.

On Monday, February 26 at 6 PM, long-time symphony and opera supporter, Diane Stewart, will host a chamber concert at Modern West Art Gallery (177 East 200 South) featuring Principal Flute Mercedes Smith, Principal Trombone Mark Davidson and members of the Utah Symphony strings section. Tickets are $125. Please RSVP to Heather Weinstock, 801-869-9011 or [email protected] by Wednesday, February 21st. Payments can be made at the door by credit card.

On Friday, March 9 at 9 PM, Musicians of the Utah Symphony (MOTUS) After Dark will perform at Finca (327 West 200 South) to raise funds for Haiti. Suggested donation is $20.

Tax deductible receipts will be issued for people making donations to support the cause. Checks can be made payable to “Utah Symphony | Utah Opera” with the footnote “BLUME Haiti” on the payment. Online contributions may be made at www.usuo.org/give  (please include BLUME Haiti in the note section). For more information on BLUME Haiti efforts, please contact John Eckstein at [email protected]; 801-440-1185.