SARATOGA SPRINGS – Caffe Lena will begin 2024 with its first benefit event of the year; Horns for Haiti. Horns for Haiti, a nonprofit organization formed in 2020 by Bill Cole of Cole’s Woodwind shop in Saratoga Springs, focuses on donating gently used horn instruments to be used by Haitian children in the areas of Lascahobas and Arcahaie in Haiti through the Horns for Haiti’s music program.
According to executive director Sarah Craig, this is the second fundraising event Caffe Lena has hosted the benefit. In fact, the performance center had spotlighted Cole’s work in Horns for Haiti as part of Caffe Lena’s TrueSongs event in 2022, and the organization’s “Art of Community” conversation series.
The event will be held Thursday, January 5, 5:30-9:00 p.m. with dinner from Hattie’s and desserts from Nothing Bundt Cakes, and Caffe Lena’s chocolate chip cookies, with a concert from Evan Christopher, a renowned jazz clarinet player.
Why Evan Christopher?
This will be Christopher’s first concert at Caffe Lena, according to Craig. Craig felt that Christopher and his band, Clarinet Road, was a great fit for her performance space and she believes that music patrons who attend the benefit will love his music, she said.
When Craig and Cole decided to hold the fundraiser, Cole immediately thought that a New Orleans style concert would be a good fit and who to better celebrate New Orleans style of music was Cole’s long-time customer and friend, Evan Christopher.
Christopher, a jazz clarinet originally from Long Beach, CA, and also formally from New Orleans, LA, was inspired to perform New Orleans traditional jazz clarinet music by the likes of Sidney Bechet, Barney Bigard, and Omer Simeon.
Cole finds Christopher’s knowledge of the roots of Jazz to be extensive and knows that Christopher understands how jazz has evolved from the islands of the Caribbean and Haiti and settled into Louisiana, he added.
While Craig wants concert goers to enjoy Christopher’s music, she also wants people to learn more about Horns for Haiti and how the patrons can give back to those in need of a musical gift.
“We want the world to hear about this positive, grassroots project.” Craig said. “Bill (Cole) has shown us that we can each use the talents and tools available to us to make a positive difference.”
About Horns for Haiti
Horns for Haiti (HFH) became an official 501 (c ) (3) non-for-profit organization in 2020 but way before then Cole knew there was a need for bringing musical instruments to Haitian schools.
“It came to my attention many years ago that music is an enormous part of Haitian culture, especially in their schools where they were always in need.” Cole said.
In the 1980’s, Cole began repairing horns for St. John’s Episcopal Church in Troy for their sister parish in Lascahobas, Haiti and had traveled to Haiti several times to repair instruments that were in disrepair. While in Haiti, Cole led several repair workshops in Lascahobas and Arcahaie and on one of those trips with his son, the men taught young Haitian men and women how to repair instruments.
A young Haitian musician, through the effects of Cole and his son’s teachings, was inspired to begin his own repair business called Billy Shop d’Haiti, named after Cole’s son.
With the country in crisis, having music and music education in Haiti is more important than ever, Cole said. The music programs provided by Cole’s organization as well as assistance from other non-for-profits, will encourage young children in the country to avoid being lured to join a street gang and study music in a formalized setting.
This story was featured on page 14 of the January 3rd , 2024 print edition of the Spot