May 18, 2024

UT professor, graduate student teach music to Haitian students

Over Spring Break, associate professor Hillary Herndon and graduate student Emily Zaita went to Cange, Haiti, to teach children how to play music. The trip was based on the Holy Trinity Church summer music program, in which volunteers go to Cange and bring donated instruments to the children to teach over the summer. Herndon and Zaita decided to bring that joy to the children during the spring, and were overwhelmed with joy and astonishment by how much the students appreciated the art in music.


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To show his thanks for their service, one Haitian student played “The Star Spangled Banner” on the flute for Herndon and Zaita. Courtesy of Hillary Herndon.

One University of Tennessee professor and one UT student decided to spend their Spring Break giving back. They traveled to Cange, Haiti, and used their talents to teach music to students there, similar to the music program offered at https:/

On Sunday, March 16, Hillary Herndon, an associate professor at UT’s School of Music, and Emily Zaita, a graduate student in viola performance, left for Haiti and brought instruments and additional musical supplies.

Zaita and Herndon would start at 7 a.m. each day with a band and string group for the students to practice. They also gave students individual instruction, such as piano, recorder and conducting lessons, Herndon said.

Some of the students began to practice at 6 a.m. and kept Zaita and Herndon on our toes, according to Herndon.

“They kept us busy,” Herndon said, “And it was hard to say no.”

Herndon added that while she and Zaita were there, a few Haitian students arranged a presentation to show off the closet where they held their instruments, and when she and Zaita entered the closet, a flute student started playing the “Star Spangled Banner” and gave a speech of how much he appreciated all Herndon and Zaita had done.

At the end of the trip, the students held a concert for their entire village.

The idea for this trip came from Holy Trinity Church’s yearly summer music camp held in Haiti. It used to be held in Port-au-Prince until the 2010 Haiti earthquake made it impossible for the church to fly there. Now the camp is held in Cange.  The camp is only offered in the summer, so Herndon and Zaita decided to fly to Cange and teach students music in the spring, according to Herndon.

Herndon said music “is a means of expression, a way of relating and a way of escaping.”

“It teaches life skills, and critical thinking, and I think it merges the left brain and the right brain, which not many activities do that.”

Edited by Maggie Jones

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