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Healing in Disaster — With Music  
Through the individual work of good Sinfonians, our Fraternity makes a powerful difference not only here in America, but around the world. One brother who has used his talents and his fraternal spirit to impact our world in one of the places that needs it the most is Joshua Russell, Delta Nu (Bradley) '99.

In 2001, Dr. Russell made his first trip to the Holy Trinity School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. There, he served as a piano faculty member and conductor of the Haitian Boys Choir. From his brief time there, he was impacted in a life-changing way.

"Two things were particularly striking to me," Russell said. "First, there was the resilience and spirit of all of the people, particularly the kids. There was excitement, enthusiasm, and gratefulness. Then, there was the beauty of the music. Not just indigenous music, but art music and classical music. That's what made me first fall in love with the country."

Russell has fond memories of his experience at the camp - memories that have made an indelible impression on him. "One student in particular stuck with me - his name was Stanley. After breaks, we'd always try to corral the boys back in for rehearsal time, and we'd repeatedly say, 'Repeticion, Repeticion,' which is French for 'rehearsal.' Stanley was so enthusiastic about music that, any time he'd see a staff member, he'd coming running, asking, 'Repeticion? Repeticion?' hoping it was time for rehearsal. His excitement was incredible. He was excited about music and excited about life."

Holy Trinity School was founded in 1927 by Ann Marie Bickerstaff, an Episcopal nun. She believed Haiti needed a national orchestra, and used the school as an orchestral training program. Since then, the school has become the primary music teaching school in Haiti. Over 1,000 students currently attend, and the school has several orchestras, a band and a boys' choir.

This proud tradition of music education was changed forever in January 2010, when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck approximately 16 miles west of Port-au-Prince. The earthquake affected an estimated three million people, and the Holy Trinity School wasn't spared of the destruction.

"The school itself was completely destroyed in the earthquake," Russell explained. "Not just that, but over 300 instruments housed at the school were completely destroyed - primarily orchestral string instruments, but also band instruments as well."

Russell knew he had to try to make a difference for the students of the school, but also for the spirit of Haitians everywhere.

He began a program in conjunction with several others to collect instruments to replace those which were lost. He also began playing benefit concerts, and accepting instrument and cash donations.

"A lot of people ask us, 'Why in the midst of all of these huge humanitarian needs are you worrying about music?' The school's founder, Anne Marie Bickerstaff, had this wonderful line: 'We must remember to feed the soul as well as the body.'" Russell knew from his experience that music would play a vital role in recovery.

Through his efforts, Russell was able to send a shipment of over 100 instruments to Haiti. Through their combined efforts, their project has put over 300 instruments directly in the hands of the students.

"It's really amazing as you start to understand the culture in Haiti. They look at music as part of their sustenance. One of the students there has said, 'If we have food and music, we are happy.'" Music is a huge part of their life and their culture. It's made a huge difference in their ability to recover."

Since helping to replace the instruments of the school, Russell has turned his attention to the rebuilding process of the school itself. The school is now open in a different location, but Russell hopes to contribute to the rebuilding process.

"I discovered some really beautiful piano music by one particular Haitian composer. I perform it regularly across the United States, and I had wanted to do a recording. This gave me the perfect opportunity."

Russell took advantage of that opportunity to produce a CD, "Valses to Voodoo: Piano Music of Haitian Composer Ludovic Lamothe." He's donating a majority of the proceeds of that recording directly to the rebuilding effort. When asked how his experience in Sinfonia has motivated him to be involved, he spoke enthusiastically about the impact the Fraternity has had on his life and career in music.

"There are certain individuals who've made a lasting contribution to society and music in general. They've decided that they want to use their abilities and opportunities to help other people. I think of Mills and his music mission, and this idea of using music to help society. That's something that really resonated with me.

"One of my favorite composers is Franz Liszt. He described our responsibility as musicians as 'genie oblige,' or 'the obligation of genius. If you were given a talent or ability, you have an obligation to use that ability for helping other people."

And help others he has, perhaps where that help is needed most desperately. Russell's involvement has made an unforgettable impact for the school, but has been edifying for him as well.

"The director of the Holy Trinity School has said, 'We dance when we're happy, and we dance when we're sad.' Music is critical in their healing process. There's such incredible hope."

You can find out more about Joshua's outreach, listen to samples of his CD and purchase your own copy at