Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Bound by the Sounds of Haiti

MONTREAL - Milena Sandler had lived in Montreal for 15 years before moving to Belgium in 2004 and ending up in Haiti four years later. That most recent relocation was motivated by love — she married musician Joel Widmaier not long after her arrival in Haiti — but it also led to a partnership between the two that lies at the core of the annual Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival.

The festival had only just completed its second edition when Sandler — who had been doing public-relations work for the event from Belgium since its launch — moved to the festival’s home base and got even more involved.

“I always knew that I had things to do in this country,” Sandler said during a recent telephone interview from Haiti. “I always wanted to make a difference in the area of music.”

Sandler and Widmaier — general director and president of the festival, respectively — are also on the executive committee of the Haiti Jazz Foundation, which produces the yearly event in partnership with the ministries of culture and tourism, as well as various programs, embassies and sponsors.

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