Collectively we spent about 7 weeks in Haiti over the summer. We arrived and left and separate times (that was a first since starting this project), but filming continued and we are excited by all of the new footage. The project started back on the grounds of Holy Trinity and its annex in Petionville. Summer camp was a little different this year compared to others. In the mornings the older students traveled to the annex where the volunteers were staying. They received private lessons and workshops on conducting and pedagogy. After lunch, the volunteers were driven down the mountain to Ste. Trinite to teach lessons to the other students and rehearse the large ensembles. It was wonderful to meet the new volunteers. Sarah McClain, a student at Lawrence taught oboe and bassoon in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel. Anna Huthmaker a luthier from Goergia worked to train Haitians to repair bows.
On the first Saturday we spent the afternoon removing rubble from the fallen cathedral. Students, teachers and volunteers – young and old – all worked together to remove the debris. It was beautiful to see everyone moving the heavy bricks with smiles on their faces. The concert was a success and we will have footage up on our website soon.
In Jacmel there was much less damage overall and the music school had been repaired. We are very excited to include Dessaix Baptiste, the music school at Jacmel into the story. There is so much happening here and it was very exciting to be a part of it. Carolyn left Jacmel after about one week to work at a school in La Pleinne. Some footage of this school was included in our first cut, Kimbala ~ Hold On. Stephen stayed in Jacmel for 3 more weeks and filmed the remaining classes rehearsals and concerts We've created a short video with some of this footage.
We are happy to announce that we have been accepted to present at the 22nd annual Haitian Studies Association conference. It will be held at Brown University on November 11th -13th. The theme this year is, “Haiti, History, Healing: Facing the Challenges of Reconstruction.” Our goal is to finish the new the film so we can premier it at the conference. We have also received a Distinctiveness Grant from Lawrence University in order to pay for flights and hotels and registration costs.
What’s next? We just finished logging over 2,500 minutes of footage and we are working on the storyboards for the final film. Look for a tour schedule and film festival dates in the future and follow us on twitter for smaller updates. Thank you for continuing to follow our progress.
As promised we are updating our blog now that our Honors Project cut is finished. The screenings were a success and audience members reacted positively. The feedback and criticism will help us progress to our final version of the film. We have decided not to put the 40-minute cut online and instead wait until we can make the necessary changes for our final cut. We would still like friends of the Ste Trinite family to see this short version of film and to use it for fundraising and events. If you are interested in a copy, please send a donation for the shipping cost.
E-mail us at email@example.com for more information.
In March, during our finals week and spring break we decided to attend the Sustainable Haiti Conference in Miami, and to accompany Professor Anthony in Haiti for a 9 day follow up shoot. Prior to leaving, we worked with Professor Anthony to gather donations of tents, tarps, medicines, radios, flashlights, lightweight fleece blankets and other supplies. The generosity of people in the community made it possible for us to take 7 duffle bags of supplies with us. If you can only help one person, touch one life, it is worth it. This is what the students, teachers, and volunteers who share music in Haiti realize through their work.
The Sustainable Haiti conference took place March 17-19 at the Miami Beach Convention center. There were 39 workshops and panels + over 100 speakers from around the world participated including former Prime Minister Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis, Minister of the Haitians Living Abroad Edwin Paraison, actor Jimmy Jean-Louis, and musician Richard Morse. We took part in all three days of the conference, listening, talking, and networking. We met some wonderful people, including filmmaker Brian McElroy of the Haiti documentary ‘The Road to Fondwa’, who gave us some great advice and showed interested in the story of music in Haiti. We sat in on an education panel in which they talked a lot about financial support for higher education, the language of education (French, English, Creole, all three?), and technological innovations. But nothing was mentioned about the importance of music, or arts and culture. So I raised this question and gave an example of the documented success of the Venezualen Youth Orchestra program, wondering if they were considering this. Turns out one of the panelists, Maj. Joseph M. Bernadel founded the Toussaint L’Ouverture High School for Arts and Social Justice, and was very interested in the future of arts and culture as a part of Haiti’s development. Much of the conversation was focused on materials, shelter, rebuilding, agricultural development, all VERY important, but I think the voice we brought to the conference reminded people of the value of arts and culture. It was an intense experience. Emotions ran high and sometimes there were budding heads. Some people couldn’t get past their individual identities as missionaries, diaspora, Haitian-born, not hatian-born, but many did.
The one thing the conference clearly lacked was the voice of Haitians themselves. There were individuals, such as Haitian-American Richard Morse who passionately tried to represent them as best he could. The last day concluded in a town hall, a discussion that could have gone on another three days and there is still much to be accomplished. The organizers of the conference created Haiti Onward, a website to continue the dialogue.
After the Sustainable Haiti conference, we left from Miami for Haiti, arriving Saturday morning, March 20. There was something different about it from the moment we got on the plane. About 95% of the people on the flight were white, and it was oddly quiet. Usually the flight is 80-90% Haitians and landing is celebrated with prayers and applause. The airport was changed into a military base, tents and machinery set up outside. We were picked up by Sorel, the driver for Holy Trinity, and we drove straight to the school. When we got to the school, what is left of it, the orchestra was in the middle of a rehearsal. It was all very overwhelming, but then we saw Jeanne, and got a big long hug from Pierro. That was great. Seeing people, talking with them, hugging them, it was starting to feel familiar again, and it was a huge relief seeing with our own eyes that they were okay.
We stayed with one of the members of the Friends of the Orchestra committee, Gladys Lauture. She was a wonderful hostess, and made us very comfortable. She has done so much work helping people post-quake in her neighborhood, and in the SIDA (AIDS) group she works with. We would usually spend part of our days up at the Holy Trinity Annex in Thomasin teaching lessons and rehearsing with the orchestra, who were preparing for a Memorial Concert on March 28th (which we filmed.) So many people Hatians, and non-Haitians, came out to the concert and everyone was very moved by it. We also spent a significant part of the trip documenting Professor Anthony’s work distributing supplies and working with Haitian community leaders like our friends Josué Lolange, Christopher Sand Charles, Felix St. Jean, and others. Josué is a part of a group called Pécheurs d'Âmes in a tent camp in Fontanmara 27 where there were about 3,500 people without access to potable water. Professor Anthony was able to get him in touch with people working for MINUSTAH by e-mail, and then on Thursday the 25th, we took a trip down to the airport UN base hoping to get to talk directly to people. We had good luck getting in, and they were surprisingly willing to help us and talk to us, but unfortunately the resources were not there. The biggest success was being able to register Josué’s group and locate their camp on the map, so now the MINUSTAH cluster groups have better information with which to help. There is so much, so much, to be done, but rubble is being cleared, schools are reopening, and the orchestra is still rehearsing.
Thank you for your interest in this project and we hope this update has given you some insight into our project and the status of the music school. Help is still needed. It is very important to share this story with other people. If you are interested in showing the film to a group, or having us come and talk to a group, we would be more than happy to accommodate you, and we strongly encourage you to e-mail us.
We are happy to announce the first screening of our documentary. On Tuesday, May 11th at 4:30pm and Friday, May 14th at 7:00 pm we will screen a short cut of the film in the Warch Campus Center Cinema at Lawrence University. Although this is not our final cut for this project, it will offer the audience a chance to give us feedback before we return to Haiti this summer for our last shoot.
The film will be screened again Saturday, June 5th at a benefit concert. The concert will take place at the Phipps Center in Hudson, WI from 4:30-10:30pm.
We ask for your patience in updating our blog. Keeping track of our progress is important to us but we are very excited about finishing the next cut of our film and we are focusing most of our energy on this. Eventually we will post a longer update with more details about our trip in March including our thoughts about the Sustainable Haiti conference in Miami and our experience in Haiti after the earthquake.
We greatly appreciate the communities that have supported us on this journey. Please remember that we are both students with a very small budget and that your contribution to this project will make a large impact in the production of this film and educating others about Haiti.
Friends and Supporters,
We are happy to announce a “film in progress” is now complete. If you are interested in using this or other footage that we have for the purpose of raising money or awareness about Haiti, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org The film can be seen on our “video” section on our website.
We recently received a grant to attend a three-day Sustainable Haiti conference in Miami Beach on March 17th -19th. Following the conference we plan on traveling back to Haiti on March 20th-28h. Although we know the trip involves risks, we feel that it is important for our film that we return as soon as possible. We also want to reconnect with our friends in the music programs as they prepare for benefit concerts in Haiti and Saint Domingue. CNN recently covered one concert that has already taken place.
Our own efforts in the Appleton area have helped a great deal. In collaboration with Fox News and Lawrence University, the first concert raised over $5,000 for the music programs in Haiti during the Concert for Haiti.
Another large benefit concert in collaboration with Lawrence University- the Friends of Haiti concert, involved many students from Haiti that are now in the states. Many of our friends from Haiti were able to visit us and we were able to conduct follow up interviews with many of the students we interacted with in Haiti in December. Fabienne Fanord, a teacher at the Sainte Trinité School of music was in Haiti during the earthquake but was able to come to Appleton for the benefit concert. Our interview with her is featured in our new cut and we will put an extended cut of her interview on our website soon. A selection from the concert can be found here.
We hope to update you soon with an accurate amount that the benefit concerts in the Appleton area have raised. Reports estimate over $15,000.
This experience has been difficult, but we are proud of what we have been able to accomplish with your support. The communities involved with the music programs in Haiti have come together and exemplified the message of our film. A common understanding of humanity, brought together through music really can make a difference. Our hope is that this film will inspire others to join this cause and use what they love to make a difference in their community and the communities around them.
Stephen and Carolyn
Hello Friends and Supporters,
On Tuesday, January 12 a 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, just outside the capital city, Port-au-Prince. Aftershocks continue, some up to a level 5, people are sleeping on the streets, going days without food or water. Thousands are dead, and many survivors are still trapped beneath the rubble.
Stephen and I were in Haiti only 4 weeks ago working on the film. The Holy Trinity School where we stayed and taught has been destroyed. The music school on the second floor has collapsed onto the professional school, everyone inside is presumed dead. Stephen, myself, Janet Anthony, and several other Lawrence volunteers who have traveled to Haiti, have spent the last few days trying to get information about the hundreds of students and professors associated with the music programs. We are also working hard to organize fundraisers, including the upcoming 'Concert for Haiti', a collaboration of Fox 11 News, the Red Cross, the Haiti Project for Music and Education, and Lawrence University. It will be held wednesday, January 21 at 7 pm, and will be televised on Fox 11 Thursday Jan. 21 at 9:30 pm.
The Lawrence University Faculty Brass Quintet
The Milwaukee Lutheran High School Select Choir
Bob Levy and John Harmon
Lawrence Haiti Volunteer Cello Quartet
Improvisation Cellist Matt Turner
Janet Anthony and Anthony Padilla
Harjinder Bedi, Carolyn Armstrong, and the Crowe Brothers
Free will donations will be accepted on behalf of the music programs we so desperately need to rebuild. We will also be accepting instruments and sheet music. Please consider attending what promises to be a moving and powerful event.
The event will feature footage from Bel Son Production's recent December trip, perhaps the most current of Port-au-Prince before the quake. As you might have guessed, this horrible event has significantly changed the focus of our film and the importance of it's story. Haiti music programs need your help now more than ever. Bel Son productions is accepting donations through Arts Wisconsin (see the How to get Involved page) and all funds go towards immediate releif efforts, and rebuilding the Holy Trinity Complex.
Thank you for your continued support in this time of extreme need.
Happy New Year! Stephen and I have recently returned from our first shoot in Haiti and we're back for another term at Lawrence University, excited to begin the next phase of our work.
We were in Haiti from Thanksgiving until December 22, made it home just in time for Christmas. The trip was amazing, and we got a lot accomplished. We stayed in the guest house at the Holy Trinity School in Port-au-Prince.There are three schools within the compound, a primary school, a trade school, and a music school, where we spent most of our time. The children from the primary school were fun though. Every morning, we woke up to the sound of hundreds of elementary kids screaming the alphabet in French. It was Stephen's first time in Haiti. He worked very hard to learn Haitian Creole while we were there taking creole lessons once a day from a good friend of ours Jean Remi. We gave lessons almost daily and I taught a theory class. I also spent a lot of time preparing for the cello festival organized by Professor Janet Anthony, the woman responsible for bringing so many volunteers to Haiti, and for keeping us safe. One of the highlights of the trip for me was getting to play the third and fourth movements of the Menotti sonata for two cellos and piano with Professor Anthony and distinguished conductor and pianist Steve Huang. The cello festival was a lot of fun and so was the Christmas concert, a celebration of Mendelssohn.
Another highlight was getting to travel to several smaller music programs around the country. We visited schools in La Pleine, Cite Soleil, Croix-des-Bouquets, Jacmel and Cap-Haitien. I'd been mostly in Leogane and Jacmel on previous trips, and as we traveled I felt I was getting a better idea of Haiti as a whole. Different towns have different feels, dialects, looks, temperatures. Cap-Haitien is full of mosquitoes (who have a particular taste for Professor Anthony) but it has wonderful cool breezes at night. And I'm used to being in Haiti in the summer, but Christmastime in Haiti is really special. But each place we went, we worked with wonderful people, and saw music working is magic. And of course this whole time we were filming. We did a lot of interviews, including Jeanne Pocius, Steve Huang, Bernadette Williams, Dorve Carlot, Mackelder Saintilus, members of CEMUSHKA, Nicole St. Victor, and many more.
We also got invited to play a peice and be interveiwed on Haitian national television. We were promoting the cello festival. This was a bit scary, and they made us wear a ridiculous amount of make-up, but it was cool. Stephen and I played with a konpa band called Zanmi (really awesome group of guys) at a club in Port-au-Prince. When we were in Cap-Haitian we adventured over to the Citadelle, a Haiti's 8th wonder of the world. It is a fort built in the early 1800s after Haiti declared independence. This was an amazing day trip I will never forget.
I feel like there is so much more to say, it was quite an eventful trip, but given the length of this entry I guess we'll just have to save the rest for the film. There are production photos from this shoot on the website, please check them out, and if you are interested there was an article in the Appleton Post-Crescent that I will post in another entry.
As for now we will continue fundraising and grant-writing, and we're looking forward to editing the footage we've compiled. We'll keep you updated, thanks for your support!
Lawrence University students to put Haiti music programs in spotlight with documentary By Kara Patterson • Post-Crescent staff writer • November 30, 2009
When cellist Carolyn Armstrong wanted to educate people about the music programs in Haiti where she volunteers, she arranged a slide show of sights. What was missing were the sounds.
“I thought it was really important for people to see what people at the camps were like, you know, to feel a little bit closer to the people there,” said Armstrong, a Lawrence University senior and a graduate of Renaissance School for the Arts, housed at Appleton West High School. “(Lawrence music professor Janet Anthony) was saying how nice it would be to have some actual film footage of the camps. That put a little bug in my head, like, it would be really cool.”
Armstrong is one of 40-plus Lawrence students and faculty members who over the past 12 years have accompanied Anthony to Haiti as independent volunteer instructors at music schools and summer camps. Armstrong wants to share the joy and resilience of the Haitian people, their love of and dedication to their music, and the grassroots work of the music programs with anyone who will listen.
To that end, she and Lawrence senior Stephen Anunson, a trombone player, have created Bel Son Productions in order to film a documentary about Haiti’s music programs. “Bel Son” means "beautiful sound” in Haitian Creole.
Armstrong is looking forward to seeing some of her past students as she travels throughout Haiti with Anunson over Lawrence’s winter break. The two planned to leave for Haiti on Thanksgiving and return home Dec. 22.
“My interest in film has always been this kind of story, trying to tell stories that aren’t as easily accessible, so this was an amazing opportunity,” said Anunson, co-founder and president of Lawrence’s film production club. This is his first of several anticipated trips to Haiti.
The Lawrence students plan to add their voices to the film, and document their experiences of interacting with students and volunteers in Haiti. Their goal is not only to raise awareness and funds for the Haitian music programs, but also to encourage others to use their gifts, whatever they are, to help those in need.
“Too often when you see someone in need like that, or you’re asked to do something for someone so far away and in such a different position from you, with that distance you feel you can’t do anything for the person,” Armstrong said. “We want to try to cut that distance visually, and with the music.”
Arts Wisconsin serves as Bel Son Productions’ fiscal receiver so the students can fundraise and apply for grants. So far they’ve collected about $1,500 in contributions and pledges.
A Nov. 11 benefit concert that Renaissance students organized at Harmony Cafe in downtown Appleton drew in many donations. The teenagers decided to fundraise for the film project after Armstrong and Anunson spoke at Renaissance.
“This entire project is kind of what Renaissance stands for, trying to work together as a community with our gifts to give back to the world,” said Renaissance senior Darcy Armstrong, who is Carolyn Armstrong’s sister.
Haitian musician Mackelder Saintilus, who studied for a time at Lawrence, told Carolyn Armstrong and Anunson in an interview that his experiences in his homeland’s music programs shaped him personally as well as professionally.
In Haiti’s stratified society, music can be a great equalizer, Anthony said.
“You take an audition and get a seat, and one child might be the child of a woman who sells gum on the street, and the stand partner of this child might be the child of a doctor,” she said. “This is where those relationships can start. This is very important.”
The Lawrence students hope to take the finished film into Wisconsin schools.
How to help
To contribute funds to Carolyn Armstrong and Stephen Anunson’s documentary film project on Haiti’s music programs, make checks payable to Bel Son Productions. Mail checks to: Carolyn Armstrong, 711 E. Boldt Way SPC 146, Appleton, WI 54911. Or donate online at www.belsonproductions.weebly.com (Click on “How to get involved”). Want to be part of the project? Anyone interested in volunteering or shadowing Bel Son Productions on a film shoot can send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Stephen blogging. Carolyn and I would like to thank everyone who supported the benefit concert at Harmony Cafe last week. It was a great success. Not only did you help us raise funds for the film, but you also helped us raise awareness about the issues in Haiti. We have added a "credits" page to our website and we encourage you to look at it to see the many people supporting us financially or by volunteering their time. This truly is a community effort and we are happy with the large amount of participation already!
Our flight leaves in 9 days! Carolyn and I are frantically preparing for our first shoot as we finish papers and study for finals. We plan on spending 25 days filming and making connections for our second trip this coming summer.
Please comment on our blog or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be on our mailing list. It would also be swell if you clicked on the "RSS Feed" on the right of this page so you can follow our progress.
Carolyn blogging. Our presentation at the Renaissance School for the Arts was a great experience. We spoke for 30 minutes or so about the project and gave the students general information about Haiti and the challenges it faces. We talked about what its like being two students trying to find a way to use our art to make a difference. Stephen spoke about his efforts building up the film program at Lawrence over the last few years. We then showed a preview video of the Peoria Benefit Concert and an interview we did with Canes Nicolas. It was exciting to experience the students watching our video and reacting to it, it was a big step for us I think, realizing that one day audiences will be watching a finished product, and the inspiring stories of all of these amazing students and volunteers will be heard. The students broke up into groups to brainstorm ways they could use their own talents and strengths to help us raise funding. I went to Renaissance all through High School and so it was especially touching for me, but I think both Stephen and I felt honored and excited. We filmed the whole afternoon, and so this stage of the process will be apart of the film as well. I've been back again to further discuss their ideas, and the students and teachers are really getting involved, more than we ever could have hoped. There will be a benefit event on November 11 from 6 pm-10 pm at Harmony cafe in Appleton. 233 E. College Ave. It should be great, featuring music, art, and talks from Haitian student Mackelder Saintilus and cello professor Janet Anthony.
We are working on applying for a documentary film grant, so we'll see what happens with that. Thanks for checking in with us and for your support. Please check out the Canes video if you haven't already.