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Hundreds of voices and instruments resound with support for Haiti at Vassar on April 24, 2010.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY--Hundreds of voices and instruments will resound with support for Haiti in the Vassar College Chapel on Saturday, April 24, 2010. “Harmony and Hope: A Musical Bridge to  Haiti,” will feature performances by ten musical ensembles drawn from Vassar College as well as from the Hudson Valley community. The concert will benefit the rebuilding of the Holy Trinity Music School in Port-au-Prince.

“During the recent earthquake in Haiti, the Holy Trinity Music School, part of the historic Holy Trinity Cathedral complex in Port-au-Prince, was completely destroyed. The Salle St. Cécile, Haiti’s only concert hall, along with all of the school’s instruments and musical facilities, were lost,” noted Kathryn Libin, associate professor of music and chair of the Department of Music at Vassar. “Our goal with this concert is to help Haiti to restore this essential part of its musical culture and, through the healing power of music, to recover from its many losses. Please join us in this musical celebration.”

Sponsored by the Vassar College Department of Music and the Vassar Haiti Project, the benefit concert will begin at 7:00pm in the Vassar Chapel. Tickets are $10 for students; $20 for general admission (minimum donation). Donations of $50 and above will include admission to a post-concert President’s Reception. Tickets will be available in advance at the College Center Information Desk, located on the first floor of Vassar’s historic Main Building or for further information, contact the Vassar Haiti Project (845) 797-2123 or haitiproject@vassar.edu.
 
The four Hudson Valley ensembles that will participate in the concert are: the Cappella Festiva Chamber Choir, an auditioned choir of trained vocalists celebrating its 35th anniversary season, Christine R. Howlett, artistic director, and Susan Bialek ’86, conductor;  the Cappella Festiva Treble Choir, a group of young singers from the Hudson Valley, directed by Bialek; two Stringendo ensembles: the Strawberry Hill Fiddlers, a group 18 classically-trained string players from Dutchess County-area high schools, directed by Emily and Carole Schaad, as well as the award-winning Vivace Orchestra, comprised of 34 high school students from the Dutchess County-area, directed by Jonathan Handman.

In addition to the community musical groups, there will be six Vassar College ensembles featured in the program: the student-run Mahagonny Ensemble, dedicated to performing contemporary classical music, Mark Van Hare ’10 and Catherine O’Kelly ’11, conductors; the student-run Baroque ensemble, the Vassar Camerata, Emily Bookwalter ’10 and Nicholas Rocha ’11, conductors; the Vassar College Choir, an auditioned mixed choral ensemble of approximately 50 students, Drew Minter, conductor; the 20-piece Vassar College Jazz Ensemble, James Osborn, director; the Vassar College Orchestra, Eduardo Navega, conductor; and the Vassar College Women’s Chorus, Christine R. Howlett, conductor.

“I feel it is very important for the students in the Vivace Orchestra and the Strawberry Hill Fiddlers to learn about the role music can play in times of need,” noted Jonathan Handman, director of Stringendo. “The high school students who are members of the ensembles find this cause particularly resonant as it is on behalf of their counterparts who have been studying music in Haiti.”

In addition to this the benefit concert, students from Vassar and Poughkeepsie Middle School, part of the Vassar After School Tutoring (VAST) program will hold a yard sale at Vassar on Saturday, April 24, from 10:00am to 3:00pm on Ely Lawn (in front of Ely Hall). In association with Vassar's Jhamtse Club, the sale will benefit emergency relief efforts in Haiti and to Jhamtse Gatsal school for disadvantaged kids in the Himalayas.

Lila Meade, co-director of the Vassar Haiti Project, which held its annual Art Sale and Auction April 9 - 11, noted that this annual event raised almost $55,000 for programs in Haiti, including earthquake relief, support of the Haitian artists, and projects in the VHP adopted village of Chermaitre. She enouraged everyone to come out to the concert and support the rebuilding of the music school, "to celebrate the indomitable Haitian spirit—so vibrant, strong, and free that continually triumphs over disaster and adversity—and which is expressed so powerfully and colorfully in the nation’s artwork and music.”

About the Vassar Haiti Project:

Co-founders Lila and Andrew Meade share roots in Haiti and were inspired to found the Vassar Haiti Project nine years ago with the goal to provide some help to the population of a country that even before this current disaster had 98% deforestation, 70% illiteracy, and 50% unemployment. Since its founding, the VHP has raised over $500,000 – through various efforts, including the annual art sale and auction. Through these funds, VHP has helped build the seven-room school in Chermaitre.
 
Today, the Vassar Haiti Project (VHP) has more than 100 members and is an all-volunteer Vassar College organization. VHP maintains its initial commitment to funding primary education, while also pursuing partnership efforts to improve reforestation, education, access to clean water, and healthcare in the village. These initiatives include planting thousands of fruit and coffee trees on the hillsides around Chermaitre; establishing water collection and purification systems in Chermaitre, with the cooperation of Poughkeepsie Rotary; and with support from the Trinity Church in Fishkill, establishing the first medical clinic in L’Acul (a neighboring village of Chermaitre) last June.

Sixteen members of the Vassar Haiti Project spent most of their spring break this year in northern Haiti, from March 8 to 17, visiting the village of Chermaitre as well as other locations and schools. They brought with them over one thousand pounds of supplies, donated by Hudson Valley residents and businesses and packed into 17 backpacks and suitcases. This cargo included medical and school supplies; 400 stuffed animals (collected by Deborah Johnson Ghasia from the Arthur S. May School and Marybeth Shirzadi of Fishkill's Trinity Episcopal Church); hundreds of crayons donated by Let's Get Personal; 300 toothbrushes and toothpaste donated by Dr. Donna Trimboli; soccer balls, donated by Amigos de Futbal, a local organization spearheaded by Zac Belok of Spackenkill High School; as well as other toys and games. Throughout this semester, since the earthquake, VHP has stored many of these donations in a trailer on the Vassar campus, courtesy of Arnoff Storage.

The Vassar Haiti Project blog, http://blogs.vassar.edu/haitiproject, will continue to provide an up-to-date resource of activities as well as including a daily chronicle for the 2010 trip to Haiti and Chermaitre. See also the Vassar Haiti Project website at http://projects.vassar.edu/haiti/.

About the Department of Music:

Music has occupied a place of prominence at Vassar College since its founding, in its curriculum, faculty, student activities, and facilities. Formed in 1865, the Department of Music offers an extensive program encompassing opportunities for majors and non-majors to explore performance, composition, history, and theory in depth. Students are encouraged to gain a broad perspective in several or all of these areas. With a student-to-faculty ratio of approximately eleven to one, and an average class size of 15, the department is able to support individual students as they work to realize their full musical potential. For additional information and details about the Vassar College Department of Music, please call (845) 437-7294 or visit the website http://music.vassar.edu.

Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations at Vassar should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available. Directions to the Vassar campus are available at www.vassar.edu/directions.

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Friday, April 16, 2010