Music Heals International: Bringing Music Education to the Children of Haiti | Reverb Gives

All by Liam Storrings for J/P HRO

Reverb Gives provides students, teachers, and leaders of music programs with the instruments that they need, directly from the Reverb marketplace. Since its launch, Reverb Gives has had the opportunity to help support a variety of remarkable organizations committed to making the world a more musical place.

With so many unique missions, all revolving around music and music education, we wanted to take the opportunity to spotlight some of these organizations, detailing their cause and highlighting the great work that they’re doing with music.

Today, we’re speaking with Sara Wasserman, the founder and executive director of Music Heals International—an organization committed to bringing music to the children of Haiti and globally to inspire achievement, resilience, and creativity. For more information on the group, check out its website here.

Sara Wasserman

What is Music Heals International? Can you give some insight into the history of the organization, how it got started, and a bit about your journey with the cause?

Following Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010, I began volunteering in the country through J/P Haitian Relief Organization (J/P HRO), using music as a tool to help children cope and find joy after this traumatic uprooting.

After countless visits to the Port-au-Prince community of Delmas 32, I saw the unmistakable impact of music as Haiti began to heal and rebuild. Partnering with J/P HRO, Little Kids Rock, and local Haitian educators, I started Music Heals International as a way to bring music education to the children of Delmas 32 and communities beyond.

And how does MHI see that mission through?

MHI leverages local relationships to identify visionary education partners and to establish music programs in schools and communities in Haiti. We help children discover their power, reinforcing school and community engagement, fueling creativity, and inciting hope for the future. This transformation in perspective anchors children as they mature, strengthening their resilience in the face of adversity and sustaining their drive to build a better future.

Through our Composing Futures Program, MHI provides instruments, Little Kids Rock’s proven curriculum and teacher training, support for community concerts, mentorship from renowned musicians, summer music camp, and leadership opportunities for youth. Students receive roughly 200 hours of music lessons per year and learn to play a range of instruments, including guitar, keyboards, drums, bass, ukulele, and vocals.

Our Empowering Children with Disabilities Program connects students to music, self-expression, and their peers. And, in an organization where one in 10 children served has a disability, we provide inclusive music education classes.

Our third program, Building Leaders and Community, provides mentorship and facilitation opportunities to train young leaders and give students a voice through public concerts that unite people and strengthen community bonds. Through MHI, students turn aspiration into achievement by writing and recording original songs, forming bands, and performing with celebrated musicians.

Can you talk a bit about your teachers and mentors at MHI? What are some of their backgrounds, and how did they get involved?

I met one of our teachers, Stanley, six years ago during my first visit to Haiti. His family had lost everything in the earthquake and were forced to move into a camp where 60,000 others were also seeking refuge.

A friend of mine and I gave Stanley his first guitar, and each time I returned to volunteer in Haiti, I worked closely with him. I knew Stanley would make an amazing teacher, and he was one MHI’s first, and has been an instrumental member of the nearly 20-person teaching team since.

Stanley teaches both beginning and advanced students. He says they have become his little brothers and sisters. When asked what he is trying to achieve through teaching he says, "It's not about where I personally can take them, but what I want to see them thrive to become."

How is Reverb Gives helping to contribute to Music Heals International's mission?

Not only is Reverb Gives’ support helping enable our expansion in Haiti, it also marks the first award that MHI has secured from a foundation linked to the music industry. This will help increase our visibility and awareness in that space, and may open doors at other foundations to invitation-only grants. These grants are critical in supporting MHI’s larger-scale project plans, such as possible collaboration Haiti’s Ministry of Education, ultimately enabling us to bring the joy of music-making and its benefits to children across Haiti.

How can people get involved in supporting Music Heals International?

We have several benefit concert events coming up this fall in the Bay Area and in Chicago, including the "Music + Hope 4 Haiti" benefit set to take place in Rosemont on October 24 that’ll feature hit songwriters and artists Chris Janson, Rhett Atkins, and Kelley Lovelace. Tickets can be found here. For other events and to learn more about or donate to Music Heals International, you can visit our website.

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