Juilliard-trained Haitian violinist survives quake, may not play again

Posted on: January 21, 2010

“Somewhere in the dust and blood of his own grave, blind violinist Romel Joseph began to play the strains of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto,” writes Michael Sallah in Thursday’s (1/21) Miami Herald. “By the time he was pulled from the ruins of the New Victorian School 18 hours later, he had recited every concerto in his mind that he had ever performed during his renowned career. … Despite his remarkable rescue after last week’s earthquake, the 50-year-old violinist—like so much of his homeland—must now confront wrenching losses. His pregnant wife, Myslie, 26, perished in the disaster two floors below him. The school where he taught classical music to impoverished Haitians, in the Port-Au-Prince neighborhood of Turgeau near the National Palace, is destroyed. Yet even in the heartache, Joseph said he came to a stark conclusion while lying in the rubble: He needs to rebuild his school and continue teaching children the beauty of classical music. … He may not be able to join them. With two severe fractures in his left hand, the Juilliard graduate may not be able to play the violin again.” Born into poverty, Joseph was first exposed to music at a boarding school in Port-au-Prince. “With the help of scholarships and a Fulbright grant, he went on to the University of Cincinnati and The Juilliard School, where he earned degrees in violin performance. … Instead of launching his own musical career in the United States, he turned to help the poorest of the poor in Haiti.”

There are several ways to support Haitian relief efforts. Here are three: you may make donations through Partners In Health or Doctors Without Borders, or use your cell phone to text “Yele” to 501501 to automatically donate $5 to the Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund.

Posted January 21, 2010