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Utah Symphony Shares Talents With Haitian Musician

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah Symphony musicians are known for sharing their talents with Utah, traveling throughout the state for concerts and workshops that reach 130,000 students each year.

But their vision for young people goes beyond state borders and recently, they were able to host Getro Joseph, a talented young musician from Haiti.

Joseph, now 17 years old, plays with a passion. He has a gift, more remarkable because he saw a cello for the first time just four years ago.

Joseph went to his Church building in a village outside Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to play basketball. One of his friends arrived, carrying a musical instrument Joseph had never seen.

There was an instant connection between the boy and the cello and Joseph left that game determined to get one.

“And I tried to explain to my mother, that I want to play the cello,” he said. “She didn’t know the cello. She just thought a big violin!”

Joseph was able to visit Utah for a few weeks and learn from one of the state’s best – John Eckstein, a Utah Symphony musician.

“It’s stunning,” Eckstein said. “And so, I mean, it’s just, it’s really fun as a teacher to have a student like this. The amount of improvement that his intonation has shown in the last six weeks. It’s just unbelievable. You know, I’ve never seen it before!”

Eckstein and a few of his colleagues have traveled to Haiti more than once, taking instruments with them and with the help of Utah Symphony/Opera board members, raising funds for travel and hotels.

“These students have very little, their instruments, if they even had the instruments, are in poor repair,” said Patricia Richards, who serves as the interim president/CEO of the Utah Symphony/Opera. “There’s no way for them to get the materials to prepare them. They don’t have music education in the schools, really.”

But getting Joseph from Haiti to the U.S. for a few months of study proved to be tricky.

“He couldn’t even get an interview to get a Visa and John asked if I knew anybody who could help,” Richards said. “So I started calling all the offices of all of our congressional delegation and Congressman McAdams’ office got back to me immediately. They knew what to do.”

Mc Adams said he and his staff understand.

“We want to help people to navigate a really tricky federal bureaucracy, to get people here and to help to solve their problems,” he said. “And so that’s what we do. An opportunity like this to come to the United States to study with the Utah Symphony/Opera is an incredible opportunity, it opens up a world of possibilities in his life. But it also brings value to us here in Utah.”

Music transcends language barriers and the human connection between student and teacher sparks a desire to connect and inspire. Eckstein knew that spending a few weeks here or in Haiti can only do so much. But with a student like Joseph, it might turn into a lot.

“Because of his talent, dedication and his interest in teaching others, you know, he’s going to be a real force on the cello in Haiti,” Eckstein said. “And so everything we give to him is going to get passed on to a lot of people.”

For Joseph, it was much more than that.

“Music gives me, gives the hope for life, not only for life, for the change, maybe genuine, for my country.”

From the players to their artistic director to the front office – the Utah Symphony/Opera shares a vision – a reason for moving forward into 2020. Changing lives, one musician at a time.

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