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Alumni Stories

Credo alumni go on to do great things! You can read all about their many musical accomplishments on the alumni achievement pages. Many alumni are motivated to create their own projects to make the world a better place. In the Credo tradition, they combined direct physical comfort (serving food, working on shelter) with spiritial food of music (donating dozens of violins and lessons).

We’d like to share their stories:

Yael Kurzbauer: Namaste Benefit Concert

Lauren Manning/Holly Jenkins: Tour for Peace

Allie Lint: Violin for Vasculitis

Sarah Quale in Haiti

Yael Kurzbauer (’09, ’10): Namaste Benefit Concert

What does a Nepalese charity, a concert in Amsterdam, and Credo have in common? Yael Kurzbauer. A two time Credo Alum (’09, ’10), Yael was inspired by her time at Credo to organize a benefit concert in January 2012 to support Namaste Nepal Netherlands. The charity was founded in 2008 by two Dutch women who gave up lucrative jobs to give poor Nepalese families assistance in setting up small businesses.

Yael had contributed her translating talents (Dutch to English) for a short-term school project for the award-winning charity a year before the idea for a benefit concert materialized. “I wanted to combine my love for music with the call to do something tangible for others.” It took three months of brainstorming and improvising often with “more downs than ups” leading to the successful January 21st event.

“Getting 9 musicians to agree to perform on the same day at the same time and finding an appropriate venue was just the beginning—I kept asking myself how Peter Slowik can organize an entire festival year in, year out!” When asked about crisis moments, Yael relates, “A generous donor had given Namaste Nepal Netherlands a large supply of champagne. I thought it was a great idea to include a “free” glass of champagne in the concert ticket price and designed posters with that pitch! I had to do a lot of convincing when some school staff members questioned the champagne and I had to promise to monitor the bubbles served at the concert!”

Yael was joined by longtime Credo affiliate Michelle Micciche Pincombe, Credo alumna Lauren Manning, and other musicians from far-flung locations (Iceland, Great Britain, the United States and of course, The Netherlands) in an evening of great music and fine fundraising.

Adding to Namaste Nepal Netherlands motto, “No one can do all the good that the world needs, but the world needs all the good you or I can do,” Yael is putting into practice what Credo taught her: young musicians have the power to use their talents for a larger cause than self. Or as Yael put it, “Music knows no boundaries and helps us reach out to others in ways that make all of us better. Music lives because music matters!”
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Lauren Manning (’08, ’12), Holly Jenkins (’12): Tour for Peace

From Lauren: Hi, my name is Lauren Manning and I am currently a senior violinist at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where I study with Professor Milan Vitek. I am the daughter of a pastor and his wife who moved to Amman, Jordan 23 years ago. I was born in Amman and am from a very close-knit family of six. After being impressed at the age of five by a girl who played violin one day in church, I told my mom that I wanted to, “Play that thing with the stick.”

My parents agreed to buy me my first violin, and I eventually ended up studying at the National Music Conservatory of Jordan before college.

My experience at Credo was one of the first which helped me unite the three things I love most: God, people, and musicI attended Credo in 2008, right before my freshman year at Oberlin. During the course of the festival, we had the opportunity to perform outreach concerts in the community, thus using our music to bless others in a very practical and realistic way. My experience at Credo was one of the first which helped me unite the three things I love most: God, people, and music. I began to see how my music could reach outside of the traditional concert hall, and touch the lives of people who might never have the inclination or opportunity to hear a live performance otherwise.

During this past summer, I conducted a project called “Tour for Peace” with two of my fellow Oberlin students: Holly Jenkins ’12 (also a violinist and Credo alumna) and Micha Hilliard ’11 (film-maker). We spent six weeks touring in Jordan and Palestine, presenting a series of workshops, performances, and lessons for many different audiences: from children with special needs to summer camp kids in a refugee camp.

We believe that music is a powerful force, capable of effecting positive change in individuals and society. Its transformative power transcends race, religion, politics, concepts of nation-states, borders and education; thus, through its esoteric nature, music realizes humanity in its most basic form. Through our music, we hoped to move audiences toward a greater understanding of their place in their communities and cultures. Although we continue to learn, discover, and educate ourselves as students and artists, our purpose and aspirations as violinists go much further than creating prestigious careers.

We hope to influence people through our playing and help them to more fully realize their identities as part of the human race. The youth of the Arab world have risen up to call for change in their societies and governments – change which will promote justice and a progressively peaceful existence. Their innate yearnings were portrayed in our music.

Our weeks in Palestine convinced me of something essential. We, two young (and maybe slightly naive) passionate violinists, went to a place which in every way is different from the environment we are steeped in for the duration of each school year. There were no practice rooms with grand pianos and windows, no rehearsals to be at, no teachers to please. Every day, I was pushed to do things that are not naturally comfortable; I was forced to ignore certain selfish desires, like getting enough time to practice. In Palestine we were just people, faced with other people each day. The children we met in the Nablus violin workshop, or the Bethlehem special needs center, or Silwan, or the Eizerya orphanage, There is one fact that politics will not change: no one has the right to steal beauty and happiness from anotheror the Diabetes center, or the Azzeh refugee camp…they are all people just like us. I was confronted with a whole new facet of humanity.

Music might seem like a silly and insignificant thing. I have had my doubts about its capacity to really have an impact. But I now understand why music can have such an important place in society. It helps make and build a culture – it is a manifestation of emotions and ideas, an expression of art, a means of communication. It is a non-material identity which can be embraced by people anywhere. Our project, therefore, was in a way an investment in a culture which has been slowly dumbed down and cut off from intellectual and cultural dialogue. There is nothing humane about imprisoning children for years and preventing them from gaining an education, or not allowing people to pass through a checkpoint to earn an honest living, or alienating families from one another. Although the region and the nature of life in Palestine is permanently affected by politics, there is one fact that politics will not change: no one has the right to steal beauty and happiness from another.

From Holly: I’ve been playing the violin for 15 or 16 years now, and during that time I’ve worked with many different people and performed for different audiences in many different countries. I’ve traveled to Jordan and the West Bank, and to Pakistan (summer of ’12) for performances and music workshops with young people.

I’ve played for audiences of all classical musicians, and for audiences full of people that haven’t ever seen a violin, or heard classical music before. Each performance gives me an opportunity to reach people in a unique way; for the people that know classical music very well, I have the opportunity to share a fresh outlook, and for those who don’t know classical music, hopefully I’m able to share something that reaches them on a deeper level than (for me) just speaking would.

Music has this incredible ability to bridge gaps of all sorts, whether those gaps are social, religious, or cultural. There’s this feeling I get when I listen to music sometimes, where I feel as though I’ll jump out of my skin if I can’t play/dance/move. I feel so inspired, and so moved emotionally, (whether through memories that the music raises, or through new emotions entirely) and through performing and teaching, no matter who the audience is or who I’m playing with, I feel like maybe I have the chance to reach people in that same way.

When I was working and performing in the West Bank with my best friend and amazing colleague Lauren Manning, I had some experiences that really illustrated the importance of music. One time, when  we were staying in Bethlehem, a woman and her daughter traveled for an hour and a half on public transportation to get to our flat for a lesson. Suzana and Selma struck me immediately as friendly, warm, and honest.She picked up on things so quickly, and was so determined. I think I would pay to teach her. Selma, who was 11 at the time, had had a violin for three years, but had had no violin teacher. (Mostly due to lack of violinists in the area that her family would have access to).

She told me that as a 3 year old, she made a violin out of a box and a ruler, and used a dowel as a bow. She would make people watch her as she “played” the violin, because it was her “dream” to play. As I taught her (as my wonderful teacher taught me), it was incredibly moving to watch her reactions. I could see that her arms were getting tired as we went through the exercises, and as we took a break, she exclaimed, “this is SO exciting! I love this so much!” She wouldn’t believe me when I tried to tell her that she had a remarkable ear, and was learning quicker than I could ever have thought possible in such a short time. But she really was amazing. She picked up on things so quickly, and was so determined. I think I would pay to teach her. She asked me not to forget her when I go home to America.

Didn’t she realize that I could never forget her? The impact of just meeting someone so determined to learn, so excited to be a part of the music, and so kind and affectionate is such that I could never forget her. I could never forget a single child that I’d worked with closely there. They all have so much to say, and have the capacity to say it in so many ways.

A few words from Micha about the film he made:

“This is not just another film about the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. There are enough films out there, which attempt to show the conflict in its perplexing and ponderous entirety. They end up, inevitably, dwelling on the injustices and the violence perpetrated on both sides, on refugee children and IDF soldiers. Surely, it is important to document these realities of the conflict, for the world to see and assess. However, when filmmakers take this approach, they all too often forget that they are dealing with people and not just an issue. Righteousness takes the place of compassion. As a result, they dwell on the ugliness and not the beauty of the region, proffer a message of desperation and not of hope.

Yet, there is much beauty and hope.”

Click here to watch the complete documentary.
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Allie Lint (’02, ’06, ’07, ’09): Violin for Vasculitis

I first attended Credo in 2002, at the age of 14. It was a fantastic summer – I played Beethoven, enjoyed the beautiful campus of Oberlin, and made great friends with whom I still keep in contact today! It was also one of my first experiences playing in a large ensemble, and I will never forget our concerts in Warner Hall, or out in the gazebo in the middle of Tappan Square.

Fast-forward two years, at the age of 16. I was studying violin and piano, looking ahead to an exciting career in music, when I began to show symptoms of illness – respiratory problems, fatigue, and a cough that brought up blood. It was determined that I had been suffering a severe lung hemorrhage, and it would be four months, three hospital visits, and one two-week sedation period later that the doctors would finally reach a diagnosis: Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (GPA/Wegener’s), a rare type of vascular auto-immune disease.

It was a triumph to be accepted to the Conservatory on scholarship, and I entered my freshman year full of hope for my music and for my health.The following months brought chemo treatments, my 17th birthday, a brand-new driver’s license, bouts of depression, and many physical and emotional challenges of playing the violin. As I approached my senior year of high school, I began questioning my choice of colleges, and decided that I wanted to attend Oberlin regardless of my medical condition and its uncertainties. Spending time at Credo over the last few summers had made me familiar with the campus and its musical surroundings. It was a triumph to be accepted to the Conservatory on scholarship, and I entered my freshman year full of hope for my music and for my health.

Aside from my primary violin studies during four years of school, I also took viola lessons with Peter Slowik, who taught me the fulfillment of using music for service. That teaching sparked an attitude in my mind that has lingered over the years, and was reflected in the service project days at Credo when we visited prisons, assisted living residences, and underprivileged neighborhoods to share the gift of music. While I oftentimes struggle to practice alone, and can’t find the motivation to learn new music for my own sake, it feels almost effortless to know that I am performing for the benefit of someone else.It feels almost effortless to know that I am performing for the benefit of someone else.

The individual encouragement from Oberlin professors like Mr. Slowik, and my attitude towards performing that Credo had nurtured, were the first catalysts to developing my own niche on the music stage.

It was exactly one year out of school, working as a teacher and freelance musician, that I decided what I was meant to do – and that it had been present all along. The two paramount aspects of my life were music and my illness. Why not combine the two, and overcome something bigger than I could with either one separately?

Soon afterwards I founded my non-profit project, Violin for Vasculitis. Through it I would travel to all 50 states to help promote awareness of this life-threatening disorder that I and 3 million other people in the country have. In each state I play a concert, usually consisting of diverse repertoire I studied while in school, and incorporating local talent into my musical program. Interspersed with musical selections, I hold a sort of public-speaking role, providing others with information on vascular disease and its dangerously unrecognizable symptoms.

Within weeks of beginning the project, I held the full support of music professors, fellow Credites and their families, members of the vasculitis community, and musicians around the globe. By the end of the year 2011, V4V will have visited 3 states and held 7 concerts; in early 2012, at least 5 more states already have events in progress. Recently, I was able to add a fundraising aspect to the journey; there are now donations coming in to support my financial target of $25,000 to be donated to the Vasculitis Foundation by the time I leave the last state.

Though I am more often labeled an “activist” than a “violin virtuoso,” that doesn’t alter my goal – in fact, it helps keep my priorities straight. I am musically fulfilled helping others through this project more than I ever could be as a healthy performer. And with the values, work ethic, and inspiration I received all those years at Credo, I am at peace knowing that my heart is in the right place.

Almost every summer since 2002, I have found myself back in Oberlin helping out at Credo in some way – as counselor, stand-in violist, quartet coach, service project helper, or providing transportation – and I am still amazed every year by what Credites can accomplish in just a few weeks. I have never forgotten what my time there has contributed to my life, and I plan to stay involved with this unique program for many years to come.

To read more about my project, and keep updated on my travels, visit www.facebook.com/violin4vasculitis
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Sarah Quale (’09) in Haiti

This past summer, Sarah Quale organized a very special trip to Haiti. This is her story:

“This summer, five friends and I had the privilege of going to Haiti; first, we went to North Haiti Christian University (Limbe, Haiti) and worked with an organization, Indigenous Pitch, to put on a dance, art, and music therapy camp for children who were victims of the devastating earthquake in January 2010. Then, we went to Port-au-Prince to Lighthouse Orphanage, where we taught the children music!

On the first day of the Indigenous Pitch art/music/dance therapy camp we [our team] watched in awe as a hundred beautiful children poured out of the bus. Our long awaited plans, hopes, and prayers came to life. It is difficult to describe the children.. they are all wonderfully and fearfully hand-crafted. They sing and worship unashamed. They dance and move to rhythms in a gracefully wild way. They pulse with constant energy, sound, and motion. They speak with quiet, gentle voices, but they are bold, courageous, straight-forward and strong with pure and innocent, child-like faith. Their skin is radiant… warm, smooth…beautiful. Their eyes are big and curious..dark-brown with long lashes. Their bright white smiles pour forth light. Their souls are deep…they have experienced pain that we cannot grasp nor see. Children of God, that sing, dance, and play…full of life, light, and spirit…so free.

I am home but I feel as though my heart is in Haiti…with the kids and also with my teammates. It’s as if I’m seeing through a different lens.. I look at my room and I am overwhelmed by all of the “stuff.” I find myself only wanting to wear the clothes that I wore in Haiti..that’s all I really need. I have a hard time sleeping, the kids are in my dreams every night. I make a cup of coffee and drink it black..to taste and smell Haiti. I have a desire to live simply..simplicity is freedom, as Richard Foster says in his book “Celebration of Disciplines.” We have so much. We are rich… we are not “poor” college students. We are so wealthy it’s absurd. I’m uncomfortable with being so comfortable when there are people living in tents and there are thirty little kids sleeping on top of each other underneath a tarp…who have experienced more pain and loss in their seven years of life than I might experience in my lifetime. I have come back to America to be faced with the reality of my selfish self..and materialism. The things of this world have become strangely dim and my heart’s cry and hope is that they only become dimmer and duller in the light of his Glory and Grace. I don’t want to go back to how I was before I left. I don’t want to adapt into this culture. I don’t want to live unaware and careless, like I have done for so long. Oh vanity of vanities… Ecclesiastes now has such a deeper meaning. “all things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun…verse 18 “for in much wisdom is vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” Only Jesus can satisfy and it is only through Him that Haiti will be healed!

God used our arms and hands to hold children. Children that have lost everything..parents, their siblings, their homes. He used our voices to be His voice, to speak of His love for them. He used song, dance, and music, and showered His joy, His peace, and His presence upon us.

The camp was incredible. The kids were able to express themselves through different avenues…some of which they had never experienced before. Throughout the week they learned about their identity…within the context of family, community, rebuilding, dreaming, and most importantly, their identity in Jesus Christ.

We had the privilege of being used as His vessels of love…to wrap our arms around kids, to hold them tight, to sing and dance with them, to tell them they are loved. To GOD be ALL the GLORY!”
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