Students build, serve and play in hurricane-stricken Texas and Puerto Rico

a report from Rebecca Shasberger, Credo Outreach Coordinator and Artist-in-Residence

This January Credo recruited a group of thirteen Oberlin Conservatory students who spent two weeks on campus learning and growing in ways quite familiar: rehearsing chamber music, being coached by members of Oberlin’s faculty, and performing in Kulas Recital Hall. No amount of imagination could have dreamt up the ways these students would continue to learn and grow through unfamiliar means once they took their hard work to Beaumont, Texas and San Juan, Puerto Rico. In these communities, ravaged last summer by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the students shared with those in need, not only through music but through physical labor and emotional commitment. I joined the students not only as an organizer, but also as cellist of the Brahms Quintet, one of the chamber groups who traveled to Beaumont. It was a privilege to observe firsthand what took place in and through the Texas team during the week away.

 Team Puerto Rico

Team Puerto Rico

 Team Texas

Team Texas

While in Beaumont students learned new skills ranging from hanging drywall to painting ceilings, developing a new appreciation for professionals in these fields along the way! Students grew in understanding and empathy as they heard stories of those whose lives have been turned upside down by Harvey. Even in the midst of the destruction it was hard to comprehend the extent of the damage done by the storm, and the number of years it will take for life to return to “normal.” Over the course of the week we played in churches, a low-income Salvation Army apartment building, a battered women’s shelter, an elementary school, and on the driveway of a house we had worked on for the homeowner and her neighbors. The enthusiasm and joy of the audiences was an encouragement to all of us, and the students became more animated in interacting with their audiences with each performance.

Hannah Price, a violinist on the Puerto Rico team and a 2010 Credo alum, reflected that their time in San Juan “was nothing short of both humbling and inspiring. We were welcomed so very warmly by people who had every reason to be disheartened and upset, but they showed us a kind of generosity that put every one of my own challenges into a striking perspective.” The Puerto Rico team kept busy with performances all week. They played eight concerts in six venues, including three schools. Two days were spent at a church in San Juan, cooking for over 100 people (most of whom have come there every day for food since the hurricane). After the meal, they played! Credo’s Artistic Director Peter Slowik joined each team for part of the week, and was inspired by what he saw in both Texas and Puerto Rico: “This week was a beautiful embodiment of the Credo ideal - that musicians can serve their fellow man with music and service, enriching the world and receiving ample blessings in return.”