Missionaries of Music

23 09 2009

A Time magazine article from Dec. 3, 1979, tells the story of Sister Anne Marie Bickerstaff, an Episcopal nun who had moved to Haiti in 1951 to teach at a missionary school.  Over the years, she worked with her students to develop their musical abilities, and eventually raised enough money to fund an orchestra, concert hall, and music school (among other things.)  Very, very cool.

I actually discovered this article tonight, after reading the first chapter of Taking It to the Streets: Using the Arts to transform your community, by J. Nathan Corbitt and Vivian Nix-Early.  In the foreword to the book, Tony Campolo recalls his reactions to the Haitian orchestra project (side note: I assume the above-linked article is referring to the same orchestra that Campolo mentions below, although he does not give enough details to know):

“I was somewhat shocked.  When I considered the incredible poverty of this poorest of all nations in the Western Hemisphere, and when I thought about the massive malnutrition that plagues the children of the capital, I instantly concluded that the money would be better spent on things other than music.  That was before I saw the symphony orchestra perform in an outdoor sports stadium…As I watched the impoverished populace react to the music, saw the ecstasy and pride in their faces, and the sense of dignity that the music generated among these people, I realized that the nuns had done the right thing.”

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