Tuesday, April 20th, 2010
Here is a way you can help with the Haitian relief effort!
Today, I am writing to ask your help in promoting the cause of my good friend Haitian violinist Romel Joseph, Executive Director of The New Victorian School in Port-au-Prince, remarkable in all his accomplishments in spite of being blinded by illness at age 5.
What happened to Romel in the January 12th earthquake is one of the most powerful and profound classical music news stories of today. It was picked up by the major news outlets (see the links below). The immediate story after the earthquake of Romel’s being buried 18 hours in the rubble of the collapsed school he founded in Haiti is both sad and uplifting. Lying there buried in the dark with crushed legs and a broken left hand—not knowing if he’d survive, much less ever play his beloved violin again—it was the music of the great concertos of Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Mozart, and others he had played that Romel recited in his mind and that sustained him through this tortuous experience. Moreover, his life story epitomizes the power of classical music to inspire and sustain him, bringing him as child from poverty in Haiti to Juilliard, where he earned a Masters degree, and then back to Haiti. Instead of focusing on building a career as a performer, Romel Joseph has never forgotten where he came from and has dedicated his life to bringing educational, musical and performance opportunities to Haitian children.
I first visited Haiti when I was 14. My dad, Bill Moyer, who was the personnel manager of the Boston Symphony heard from one of our neighbors about Ecole St. Trinite in Port-au-Prince. It is run by the Sisters of St. Margaret, a group of wonderful nuns who are part of the Episcopal Church. The sisters ran a general school for children from K-12, a trade school, a music school, and The St. Vincents School for the Blind, which Romel attended, just down the street from Ecole St. Trinite.
It was the music school that drew my family to Haiti. My dad has had the most active relationship with the school (he was responsible for getting the Holy Trinity Orchestra to visit Tanglewood where they studied with members of the Boston Symphony). My mother, Betsy, taught and performed there as a pianist and singer, and my sister, Anne, who played the violin, spent two summers at the school’s summer music camp. Even my dad’s childhood friend, Fred Christiansen (for whom I am named) designed the school’s auditorium. I have visited the school many times over the past 38 years. I’ve taught and performed there, sometimes with orchestra, sometimes in chamber music with the students and faculty, sometimes in recitals. I’ve also performed works by Haitian composers. Many deep friendships have sprung from these visits. We have been especially lucky to stay close to Romel, partly because he moved to the United States to Study first at Cincinnati Conservatory and then at Juilliard. He and I have played several violin-piano duo recitals here and in Haiti. In 2000, I played a solo piano recital in Miami to benefit his Haitian Corporation for Musical Development.
All music-lovers can play a vital role in the rebuilding of Haiti by helping Romel and the children of The New Victorian School. Musicians must look out for one another, and I ask you to spread the word about my friend and fellow musician Romel Joseph. In addition to monetary donations to start the re-building process, the school desperately needs paper, pens and pencils, violin/viola/cello/bass strings, musical instruments, sheet music, computers, etc. to help the children continue their learning and complete the school year, and to provide some much-needed stability in their young lives so violently disrupted by this catastrophic event.
Below are links to some articles and videos about Romel Joseph. I have also attached further information about his amazing survival story and how, as Stevie Wonder has already done, our community of musicians and music-lovers can help rebuild Haiti and The New Victorian School.
LINKS TO RECENT ARTICLES & VIDEOS ABOUT ROMEL JOSEPH
Miami Herald, January 21
Out of ‘a grave,’ Haitian violinist keeps music in his heart
CBS News, January 21 – Katie Couric speaks to violin maestro… http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/01/21/eveningnews/main6126610.shtml?tag=mncol;lst;1
Miami Herald, January 28 – Stevie Wonder to give keyboards to violinist quake survivor Romel Joseph
CNN, January 29 – Trapped violinist found deliverance through prayers, concertos
Photo of CBS News’ Katie Couric with Romel and his daughter, violin student, Victoria Joseph
Miami Herald, March 13 – Earthquake survivor and villinst plans return to Haiti
CNN video, February 17 – Romel Joseph receives gift from Stevie Wonder
CNN video, March 14 – Follow up video on Romel’s recovery