Sharing a Love of Music with Haitian Musicians

October 1, 2012

Photo Caption: Kelsey Klopfenstein, B.M. '12, far right, teaching students at the Ecole Sainte Trinit̩ Music Camp in Cange, Haiti.  The student to her immediate right, Mr. Henri Robert Dubois, is a banker and amateur violinist who takes his vacation in the month of July every year so he can participate in the camp and play in the high school orchestra.

Bradley violin performance major Kelsey Klopfenstein, B.M. '12, could have spent this year continuing to study violin in graduate school.  A two-time winner of the Bradley Concerto-Aria Competition, concertmaster of the Bradley Symphony, member of the Peoria Symphony all four years at Bradley, and Presser Scholar her senior year, Kelsey accomplished just about all a violin major could accomplish at Bradley. 

But instead she decided to combine her love of teaching and her love of adventure to spend the year teaching at the Ecole Sainte Trinit̩ Music School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where Dr. John Jost, Bradley's Director of Choral Activities, taught for four years in the early 1970's and whose music camp he continues to direct each summer.  Kelsey traveled to Haiti with Dr. Jost in July, taught for five weeks at two different music camps, and is spending the month of September teaching at music programs in various parts of Haiti before classes begin at the Ecole Sainte Trinit̩ in October.  At Sainte Trinit̩ Kelsey will teach violin to beginning and intermediate students, teach private lessons to advanced students, direct the high school-level string orchestra, and perform with the Orchestre Philharmonique Sainte Trinit̩, the school's community-youth orchestra and Haiti's only symphonic orchestra.  She will continue to travel each month to teach in music programs in other parts of the country.

The Sainte Trinit̩ music program was started in the early 1960's by an Episcopalian nun, Sister Anne Marie, who believed her elementary school students were budding young artists waiting to be discovered.  She set out to convince Haitian and foreign musicians, artists, and dancers to come work with the children.  She spoke in clubs and churches, collecting donations of no-longer-used musical instruments and putting them to use in her school. 

In the ensuing years the school has trained thousands of musicians, many of whom have become professional performers and teachers in Haiti and throughout the world.  Some received full scholarships to study at the Cincinnati Conservatory, Juilliard, the Mannes School of Music, Temple University, Duquesne, and other top schools, and now hold posts in universities and professional orchestras.  Sainte Trinit̩ alumni who stayed in the country have started music programs all over Haiti.  As impoverished as much of Haiti is in material wealth, the country is rich in culture, and loving music is an important part of Haitian identity.

In a recent e-mail message Kelsey says she is gradually improving her ability to speak Haitian Creole and absolutely loves being in Haiti.  According to Dr. Jost, Kelsey was a star teacher at the camps last summer, "jumping in with both feet and immediately establishing rapport with her students.  Kelsey is a unique individual: she is a terrific performer but also has an acute sense of what is going on around her.  She seemed to grasp right away much of what makes Haitians so special: their intense sociability, love of humor, amazing resilience, and dogged determination to make the most of any opportunity that comes their way.  This will be a life-changing situation for her, but she will also have the chance to help improve the lives of a great many individuals."