Growing up, the first week of July was pretty much always spent on vacation in Myrtle Beach with my grandparents. Often the fourth of July included a concert with fireworks, sometimes the concerts even featured my grandfather playing cornet or trumpet. Grandpa Laurie was a pretty phenomenal horn having played solo cornet in the Royal Air Force Central Band during WWII as a young man (he was only 17) and then in the Salvation Army’s New York staff band for several years. He even founded and directed the Festive Brass of Myrtle Beach after his retirement. He always encouraged his grandchildren to be musical. I myself played French Horn from middle school to college, marched drum and bugle corps for several summers, and even had aspirations of becoming a high school music teacher at one point. Music is part of my genetics.
So when I heard the sweet sound of overblown beginner trumpets at the CWS-supported Oscar Ramiro Center I couldn’t help but ask. The Center is a place that offers an accelerated education program to the restavek children of Haiti. It turns out that on the day we were visiting, the music class was learning about brass instruments.
When we reached the music class, I was giddy to watch. Then, somehow – I don’t know quite how it happened – one of the teacher’s two trumpets ended up in my hands. For about five minutes, the teacher and I went back and forth trading little ditties. While I wish I could say that it was a great musical experience, the truth is that in that moment, I couldn’t remember anything but warm-up exercises! The teacher totally schooled me playing awesome little jazz ditties while I just played basic runs and lip slurs.
My skill (or lack thereof) wasn’t what mattered. In that moment I like to think I was ministering to the children and telling them that they were important, cherished, and loved. It was something that those children didn’t often get to feel living as restaveks, forced to work as domestic servants, away from the comforts of family and home.
It was a strangely intimate moment for me too. You see, my Grandpa Laurie passed away unexpectedly just weeks before the trip and while I know that he would have loved to hear the story, in some way he was already part of that work. After he passed, my family set up a memorial fund in his memory to benefit the work of Church World Service. So on this July 4, while I remember my grandpa’s great horn playing, I will also remember the legacy he has left behind – including the trumpet-playing children of the Oscar Ramiro Center.
Carolyn Self is the Assistant Regional Director for the CWS Greater Mid-Atlantic, East Region