Since my return from Haiti, my thoughts have often been on the things that we take for granted here in the U.S. Clean water from the tap; power for lights, refrigerators, computers, television; abundant food; trash pickup every week! At times it is easy to think that nothing we did in Haiti really mattered. All these basic problems remain, in spite of our trip. But then I remember the real reason we traveled to Haiti: Relationships.
When Verbo Jean-Julien, head of Tetkole, was in Colorado about two years ago, I talked to him about the Tetkole band program. My wish was to hear them play in person, but the financial hurdles to traveling seemed insurmountable. Verbo continued to say, “You must come!” His voice kept echoing in my thoughts. It took some time and a leap of faith, but the way eventually became clear. And after being in Haiti, I now see things from Verbo’s perspective. I just needed to make Haiti a priority in my life!
My time rehearsing with the Tetkole band students and their excellent teacher, Maestro Getho Benoit, was exciting, challenging, and oh-so-familiar! As a music teacher for 36 years, working with band students is something I have done over and over. But my language skills in Creole were terribly lacking! However, I soon found that showing a student a clarinet fingering or clapping a rhythm didn’t require a lot of words!
I heard wonderful sounds, produced on instruments that my students here in the States would have rejected. They didn’t look “new and shiny”. But these kids excelled! I also found that students everywhere do the same things—miss key signatures, puff cheeks! But the Tetkole kids listened carefully, and worked so hard to learn the new music. After only two days of rehearsal, they performed their brand-new piece, amazingly well, as part of a concert for a large audience! It was a joy-filled time for all.
Their question the next day was “Will you be back next year?” I don’t know how it will happen, but that is my challenge. And in light of all the challenges our Haitian brothers and sisters face, this seems very small indeed.
-Heather Davis, band teacher and Fet Bondye Bo Lanme 2013 trip participant