SHU Band Members Embark on Musical Mission Trip to Haiti

Band Members in Haiti

In Haiti are, from left, Brian Beatty, Keith Johnston and Rob Cowan.

News Story: January 1, 2012

‌Sacred Heart University Director of Bands Keith Johnston, along with two members of the Sacred Heart University Band, are traveling to the island nation of Haiti on a musical mission from January 25-30. They will participate in the first annual Brass Festival, sponsored by the Holy Trinity School of Music in Port-au-Prince.

Johnston has been traveling to Haiti since 2008 to teach brass students and to conduct brass and wind ensembles. “Haiti is still recovering from the terrible damage caused by the 2010 earthquake, but through it all, the Haitian people have never stopped making music,” Johnston said. “I hope this music festival will continue to nourish the souls of the people of Haiti and offer them a chance to look to the future with continued hope.”

Traveling with Johnston will be two members of the Band – senior trumpet players Rob Cowan, a business and political science major from New Fairfield, Conn., and biology major Brian Beatty from West Yarmouth, Mass. Both recently returned from the Band’s highly acclaimed concert tour of Ireland, but are looking forward to a very different experience in Haiti.

In the past, the Holy Trinity Music School has maintained an enrollment of approximately 1,000 students and a teaching staff of 45 full- and part-time professionals. Since the earthquake those numbers have suffered, but the school is trying to build up enrollment. Lessons were offered for all orchestral instruments, piano and voice.

Sister Anne-Marie, founder of the educational programs at Holy Trinity, is convinced that even in a country as poor as Haiti, music is not a frill, but is a basic ingredient of life. “Just as people need food to nourish their bodies, they need music to nourish their soul,” she said.

Before the earthquake hit in January 2010, the Holy Trinity Complex was composed of the Elementary School, a Technical (trade) School and the Music School. Music School staff members provide basic instruction for the elementary school in general music classes and instruction in music theory, voice, winds, brass, strings and piano for older students. The Music School has beginner, intermediate and advanced orchestras and bands, along with the renowned Les Petits Chanteurs for boys and young men who performed on the Sacred Heart University campus in September 2010.

The Brass Festival will feature three days of rehearsals and coaching sessions with large and small ensembles and will culminate in a free public concert on Sunday, January 29, at the Auditorium Ste. Rose de Lima in Lalue.

One highlight of the concert will be Johnston performing with the O’rchestre Philharmonique Ste. Trinite in the premier performance of Steven Rosenhaus’ “Blue Iris” for trombone and strings.  Originally commissioned by Johnston and premiered in the fall of 2010 with SHU instructor Galen Tate on organ, this version was done by the composer at Johnston’s request for this music festival.