Janet Anthony, professor of cello, has been traveling annually to Haiti as a guest conductor and teacher since 1996. In addition to her usual summer months spent in Haiti, Anthony spent almost two months there on sabbatical earlier this year. Her trip was cut short due to the unstable political situation that brought all commercial flights to a halt mid-February, inspiring her to return beforehand.The events leading up to the coup d’etat of the then-current president Jean-Bertrand Aristide put significant pressure on Americans and foreigners residing in Haiti at the time. A combination of animosity toward Americans for U.S. involvement in the coup d’etat and civil hostilities resulted in the evacuation of non-essential government personnel. This included the Peace Corps and US Aid.
“There were a few times I was scared,” mentioned Anthony, who cited several instances of open gunfire in Port au Prince, where she was working. Considering the tensions, Anthony stressed that although constrained by the political climate, life in Haiti did go on.
Though surrounded by political strife, Professor Anthony’s volunteer work was in the realm of music. “It’s amazing what they do in the face of such hardships,” commented Anthony.
Participating in several different music programs including the Holy Trinity Music Camp in Leogane and the Dessaix-Baptiste Music School in Jacmel, Anthony taught cello, chamber music, music theory, pedagogy, and was a guest conductor. The Holy Trinity Philharmonic Orchestra is the oldest and largest orchestra in Haiti.
The orchestras were composed of music teachers from the institutions, local community members, and advanced students. Although the Republic of Haiti is a “very stratified society,” the students (ages five and up) represent a large range of socio-economic backgrounds.
Over the years, Anthony has encouraged 20 other students and several colleagues to join her in her volunteer work in Haiti. She offers a tutorial in Creole and French to help volunteers prepare. Students and faculty have recently included Miriam Chaudoir, Natalie Hall, Meera McDonald, Sonya Weston, Robert Levy, and Laura Snyder, and Ernestine Whitman. Anthony is planning on returning to Haiti in the summer. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Janet Anthony directly.