Maine Music Outreach participants at the "Maine Walks with Haiti" event in Portland this May.

Maine Music Outreach participants at the “Maine Walks with Haiti” event in Portland this May.

by Rowan Carroll-Christopher

This July, seven students in the Lincoln Academy band program (Elise Dumont, Kate Laemmle, Alex Enders, Camden Gulden, Liam Dworkin, Marshall Dodge, Emily Huber) will be traveling to Haiti to volunteer as teachers to beginner musicians at the Holy Trinity Music Grand Camp in Cange, Haiti. Lincoln Academy band director Liz Matta, who also serves as the Program and Music Director of Maine Music Outreach, has lead a group of talented musicians on this trip for the past four years, and the program has grown each time. The mission of Maine Music Outreach is to “empower Maine high school musicians to make a difference in the lives of others” by sending them to developing countries to work alongside other musicians, to share their love of music, to understand people and cultures different from their own and to learn through service and outreach how they can make a difference.

Students begin preparing for this trip months in advance, starting with an application process in November. Once the students are selected in December, they must commit to all workshops and events relating to the trip that take place during the school year. “We’ve met one Sunday per month starting in January,” says Matta, LA Band Director.  “The meetings last three to four hours.  This time is imperative to the success of our program.  Haiti is SO different from anything our students have experienced.  We provide a sort of sensitivity training about the realities of what they’ll see and hear.  And, this time gives them the chance to become a team who can depend on each other before, during and after the trip.” Events to raise funds and awareness during the year include the “Maine Walks with Haiti” event in Portland and performing at the “Bowls for Haiti” event in February, along with meetings with former US Ambassador to Haiti, Brian Dean Curran, presentations to the Maine Music Educator’s Association, and skyping with Haitian music educator Jamie Marie Cartwright.

Returning to the program this year are Elise Dumont (‘16), Alex Enders (‘16), and Kate Laemmle (‘16), along with Erskine Academy student Jennifer Kochaver (‘15). First year participants include Marshall Dodge (‘16), Camden Gulden (‘16), Liam Dworkin (‘16), Emily Huber (‘17), and Medomak Valley High School student Richard Kinney (‘17). The second year students will have the added responsibility of helping the first year students adjust.  “They know the lay of the land and they’ll be able to introduce our new students to Haitian students from past years,” says Matta. Joining her to co-chaperone the trip this year is 2010 LA alum Isaac Vesery who teaches language arts and music at the Tremont School in Boston and “has been critical in helping solidify a well-rounded curriculum for the MMO program.”
While in Haiti, students will blog about the experience, as often internet access allows.  Make sure to follow them at:  www.mainemusicoutreach.org