Help fund Royalty Free Haiti and bring music education to two Haitian cities

Haitianmusicians.jpg
Haitian musicians during a recording session.
In 2010, just days after the earthquake in Haiti, Wheelchair Sports Camp's Kalyn Heffernan and fellow local musician Greg Cronin decided to do something. The two hastily set up a benefit show and raised close to a thousand dollars; the funds went directly to supporting medical assistance in Haiti, and Cronin himself began making trips to the country to help.

"When the earthquake in Haiti happened, it was kind of like a no brainer -- we had to do something," says Heffernan.

The benefit shows for Haitian earthquake victims became an annual event -- but the two friends realized they wanted to do more. Along with a handful of other Denver-based folks, non-profit Yon Sel Lanmou (a translation of "one love" in Creole) was created, and last week it launched Royalty Free Haiti, a crowdsourcing project that aims to create two functioning music schools in Port au Prince and Cap Haitien.

During Cronin's first visit to Haiti, he found himself surrounded by musicians with no means of sharing or recording their music. He returned to Colorado with a mission to bring microphones, recording equipment and other tools necessary to capture the music being made by the internally displaced people he met in the tent camps in Haiti.

Heffernan supplied him with some beats, and on his next visit and Cronin brought equipment to record the freestyles and songs of Haitian musicians. These recordings were then brought back to Heffernan, who reworked and mixed the tracks and began uploading them to Soundcloud.

It was this Denver-Haiti musician partnership that fostered the idea of the Royalty Free Haiti project, and the idea of creating a place where children could learn how to make music from musicians in their own community. Heffernan, who also teaches at local music-based community outreach nonprofit Youth on Record, tapped some of her fellow instructors for support, and along with the Yon Sel Lanmou crew officially launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $30,000 to bring music technology and instruction to two orphanages, one in Port au Prince and one in Cap Haitien.

"It's so cool because through the years, we've networked with so many rappers and musicians," says Heffernan. "Once we decided to do this, we wanted to follow the [Youth On Record] model of partnering artists with classrooms and have [artists] teach the classes instead of teachers. We already had our musicians in Haiti picked out to teach, and with this project they will have a good foundation -- we will be able to give them a full-time salary, which will be awesome."

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