HARTFORD, Connecticut, USA — The audience rose to its feet, applauding, not knowing or caring that the man they were cheering couldn’t see them.
Romel Joseph, a Haitian violinist, spoke about his experiences — building The New Victorian School in Port au Prince Haiti in 1991, rebuilding the same school after a fire on January 12, 2000 and the devastating earthquake exactly 10 years later that killed his wife, destroyed his school, decimated his country and left him buried alive under the ruins for 18 hours.
Joseph, a Julliard-trained violinist, spoke about his personal determination to provide more children “access to music” and about his refusal to quit.
“Once you give up, you die,” said Joseph. “We are going to rebuild a third time.”
Joseph said he built The New Victorian School in order to encourage music education in Haiti, an impoverished Caribbean nation.
He said he wants to provide Haitian children with the ability to learn and perform music. “Without music, I probably wouldn’t be alive,” he said.
While trapped in the rubble after the earthquake, Joseph passed the time replaying in his head replaying some of the music he had performed in years past. It helped keep him going.
When his story of perseverance reached Connecticut, he received much more than another chance.
A group of Hartford musicians got together to organize a benefit concert for the rebuilding of his New Victorian School.
One of the musicians who performed, singer Louise Fauteux, said that she gave her time and talents because “it was an opportunity to do something good for others.”
Joseph said that the concert was tremendous, which included a breathtaking version of Cesar Franck’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, performed by violinist Luke Piscitelli and pianist David Westfall. It is a piece that Joseph thought about during his imprisonment in the rubble.
“The children of Haiti will be grateful,” Joseph said about the fundraising concert. “Just as things can be horrible as a nightmare, things can be joyful and wonderful.”
After hearing the spectacular concert at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph, the audience rose to its feet, applauding the blind violinist.
“Life goes on,” Joseph said.
Kiernan Majerus-Collins is a Senior Reporter for Youth Journalism International.