In 2010, just days after the earthquake in Haiti, Wheelchair Sports Camp's Kalyn Heffernan and fellow local musician Greg Cronin decided to do something. The two hastily set up a benefit show and raised close to a thousand dollars; the funds went directly to supporting medical assistance in Haiti, and Cronin himself began making trips to the country to help.
"When the earthquake in Haiti happened, it was kind of like a no brainer -- we had to do something," says Heffernan.
The benefit shows for Haitian earthquake victims became an annual event -- but the two friends realized they wanted to do more. Along with a handful of other Denver-based folks, non-profit Yon Sel Lanmou (a translation of "one love" in Creole) was created, and last week it launched Royalty Free Haiti, a crowdsourcing project that aims to create two functioning music schools in Port au Prince and Cap Haitien.
During Cronin's first visit to Haiti, he found himself surrounded by musicians with no means of sharing or recording their music. He returned to Colorado with a mission to bring microphones, recording equipment and other tools necessary to capture the music being made by the internally displaced people he met in the tent camps in Haiti.
Heffernan supplied him with some beats, and on his next visit and Cronin brought equipment to record the freestyles and songs of Haitian musicians. These recordings were then brought back to Heffernan, who reworked and mixed the tracks and began uploading them to Soundcloud.
It was this Denver-Haiti musician partnership that fostered the idea of the Royalty Free Haiti project, and the idea of creating a place where children could learn how to make music from musicians in their own community. Heffernan, who also teaches at local music-based community outreach nonprofit Youth on Record, tapped some of her fellow instructors for support, and along with the Yon Sel Lanmou crew officially launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $30,000 to bring music technology and instruction to two orphanages, one in Port au Prince and one in Cap Haitien.
"It's so cool because through the years, we've networked with so many rappers and musicians," says Heffernan. "Once we decided to do this, we wanted to follow the [Youth On Record] model of partnering artists with classrooms and have [artists] teach the classes instead of teachers. We already had our musicians in Haiti picked out to teach, and with this project they will have a good foundation -- we will be able to give them a full-time salary, which will be awesome."
If Royalty Free Haiti can make its goal of $30,000, it will be able to pay seven musician-instructors a full-time salary for a year and projects that the schools' outreach will connect with more than 300 orphans. The project will hopefully grow from there, so the schools can become permanent fixtures in their communities. The nonprofit teams of Yon Sel Lanmou and Youth On Record are also busy working to raise $60,000 of donations on their own to secure the creation of these schools.
During the years since the earthquake in Haiti, Yon Sel Lanmou has raised several thousand dollars for disaster relief, brought studio equipment to musicians there and was able to bring Haitian band 2Rasin to Colorado for a benefit show. A song recorded in Haiti by the Denver nonprofit was also used as a public service announcement for preventing cholera after an outbreak devastated many cities in the country following the earthquake. Hefferan and her crew of Denver friends and educators just see this massive crowdfunding endeavor as the next logical step in supporting the people of Haiti.
You can support this music education project by donating directly to the Royalty Free Haiti Indigogo campaign. They are also accepting physical donations of laptops, software, musical instruments and recording equipment for the schools; email Youth On Record cofounder Nathan Schmit via firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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