In addition to making music, CU Winds is devoted to the exploration of music as a vehicle for cultural exchange, service, and global awareness. In doing so, students learn the value of service, and of applying their discipline’s knowledge base to address cultural and societal issues. They realize the potential for a group to become more powerful than the sum of their individual identities. They gain skills in communication, leadership, and collaboration, and employ those skills to engage more broadly and deeply as members of a global community.
In January, 2017, CU Winds embarked on a service-learning tour of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Our students prepared for the tour throughout the fall semester, with the goals of deepening their learning experiences, increasing their opportunities to develop lasting friendships with their international collaborators, and informing their post-tour reflection. Activities included lessons in French and Spanish, guest speakers, brief assigned readings, and group discussions led by Amanda Barrett-Whitman of Engaged Cornell.
In Haiti we partnered with L’Ecole de Musique Sainte Trinité (Holy Trinity School of Music), which currently maintains an enrollment of approximately 1,500 students and a teaching staff of 45 full and part-time professionals, and is located next to the Holy Trinity Cathedral, the primary church of the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti, in Port-au-Prince. Formerly located across from the Presidential Palace, the school moved into a new four-story building in November, 2009, but it was demolished two months later in the earthquake that ravaged the city. With nothing left and many of their friends and family members killed, surviving members of the School decided to take to the streets and play for their community. Still in shock, the young musicians instinctively turned to what they know best: the power of music. They played to lift those in despair, honor those who had perished, and to ease the fear and anxiety of those still searching for loved ones. Plans are underway to purchase new land and rebuild.
Holy Trinity Music School staff salvaging instruments from the wreckage, February 2010
The school operates weekday afternoons and Saturdays, and includes various beginner, intermediate, and advanced bands, orchestras, and chamber ensembles. Les Petits Chanteurs boys’ choir has become particularly well known through seven United States performances tours; the choir is planning to visit Ithaca and Cornell in October, 2017, in addition to numerous other cities throughout the Northeast.
In Port-au-Prince, CU Winds was joined by members of the Yale Concert Band, directed by Thomas Duffy, and along with Holy Trinity Musicians we performed as part of the 2017 Earthquake Commemoration, which was held at the Kiosk Occide Jeanty in downtown Port-au-Prince. We then traveled north to Cap-Haïtien, where we had the incredible opportunity to perform at the Sans-Souci Palace. Approximately 17 miles south of Cap-Haïtien and five miles uphill from the town of Milot, the Palace was constructed in 1810-1813 by Henri Christoph, a key leader during the Haitian slave rebellion. Now empty, it was “one of the most magnificent edifices of the West Indies,” albeit at the cost of an unknown amount of laborers’ lives.
Along with the nearby Citadelle Laferrière, the Palace was designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site in 1982. The Citadelle is one of the largest fortresses in the Americas, built in the early 19th century to protect the newly independent nation against possible invasion.
After spending four days in Haiti, we traveled to Santo Domingo for a partnership with the Carol Morgan International School Bands, directed by Cody Gifford. Our two-day visit included side-by-side experiences, masterclasses, and a public performance with the high school band.
This project would not have been possible were it not for our local and international partners. We thank the following people and institutions for their early and consistent support:
- The Rev. Stephen Davenport
- L’Ecole de Musique Sainte Trinité – The Rev. David Cesar, director; Bernadette Williams, assistant director
- Carol Morgan School – Rhonda Norris, director; Cody Gifford, director of bands
- Yale Concert Band – Thomas Duffy, director
- UNESCO Port-au-Prince
- Patrick Delatour, Former Haitian Minister of Tourism
- Ronni Lacroute
- Cornell Department of Music
- Engaged Cornell
- Cornell Center for Teaching Excellence