The Met’s viola helps out in quake-torn Haiti

The Met’s viola helps out in quake-torn Haiti


norman lebrecht

August 15, 2014

Milan Milisavljević, is assistant principal viola in the Metropolitan Opera orchestra.

milan haiti


Last year, concerned about the lack of resources in impoverished Haiti, he gave up a mid-season week’s break to help kids on the island with their music education. Here’s Milan’s story. Sample:
I staggered onto my return flight with serious food poisoning and without my wallet (which had been stolen during one of our nights out), and yet, I was profoundly sad to leave. New York was cold and snowy, and the difference between the place I had just left and the place I called home could not have been more jarring.

Despite my illness, I attempted to return to work at the Met the next day, and found everything to be sterile and incomprehensibly foreign. As I walked around my home, I would suddenly start crying, beset by memories and many unanswered questions. The powerlessness I felt was hard to deal with. The scope of problems in Haiti was overpowering, and what we did to help was just a drop in the bucket. I could not help but wonder what the lives were like of the people I had met. Although I did not know for sure, it was not hard to imagine the tremendous hardships most of them must have been through. And yet, the children showed up every morning on time, in their freshly pressed school uniforms, and eagerly played Bach, Telemann, and Mozart. 

milan haiti2

You might wonder whether any members of the Met’s board and management have made a comparable effort for the world’s needy.



  • Fabio Luisi says:

    Milan is one of the most serious and engaged musicians I know, a real win in the viola section of the Met’s Orchestra.
    I am moved and impressed by what he did for those children.
    Bravo Milan!

  • Joel Revzen says:

    We are so fortunate at Lake Tahoe Summerfest, that Milan, as our Principal Violist, brings this same passion and commitment to excellence. His humanity and compassion for those less fortunate are a hallmark of Milan’s character.
    Bravo, Milan

  • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

    Thank you so much for going and working with the students at L’Ecole de Musique Sainte Trinité! I’ve been going since 2004, when they had a 4 story building, a concert hall, and some reasonably good pianos. I’ve been back four times since the earthquake… What I noticed in April 2014 is a dramatic level of improvement in OPST, most especially in the violins. What was the difference? Many more distinguished musicians have been going down to help, and one very gifted violin teacher spent nearly a year with the violin teachers and students, the consistency paid off. They are ready to take it to a new level.

    It is a shocking place, because of the abject poverty. But there is something magical about the people. At EMST, the love of music and leadership of Pere David are inspirational. When they had no food and water (in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake), they collected the intact instruments and started playing. When CNN asked why they would play music at such a time, they said it was because they needed music as much as they needed food and water.

    If anyone wants to help, it’s not hard. Many American musicians go down (it’s been a lot of university professors). Milan went with MESDA, which sounds great, but if you don’t connect with them, you can simply email Pere David. There’s a terrific summer camp, if you want to teach there contact John Jost. If you want to send strings and reeds it’s possible to connect with people who are going – we generally take gear bags crammed with supplies. There’s an organization called Instrumental Change where one can donate money, instruments, and I think supplies.

    If you need contacts, email me and I’ll connect you.

    If you are interested in going, just consider whether you are OK going alone, or prefer going in a team. I’ve mostly gone solo, but I sure like it when there are colleagues.