Our Story

Founder Tom Clowes has been teaching cello and Western-style music in Haitian summer music camps since 2000. Over the years, he witnessed a country nothing like the Haiti he saw in the media – a country rich in art, language, culture, religion, history, storytelling, and, of course, music. When he learned of Haiti’s centuries-year-old classical music tradition, he was  captivated by its depth and breadth. In Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake and knowing he’d be interviewed on Chicago Public Radio when he returned, he asked Haitians, “What message do you want people in the US to hear about Haiti?” Not a single person asked for charity. Instead, they asked that stories be shared of the beauty of their country and their culture, and how in the face of horrible tragedy Haitians came together as one.

Upon his return, Clowes and the founding board members of Crossing Borders Music in response created “Beyond the Headlines: Haiti in Music.” This program of chamber music by Haitian composers was featured on ABC-7 Chicago News, WFMT’s Relevant Tones, WFMT’s Fiesta!, WBEZ’s WorldView, in the Chicago Tribune, on ChicagoMusic.com, and as a Critic’s Pick in TimeOut Chicago. Live recordings from this program became Crossing Borders Music’s debut CD. In the same season, Crossing Borders Music produced Celebrating Resilience: Music from the Unvanquished Bahá’í University of Iran, featuring composers and performers who risked their lives to study and teach music at the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education, which was set up in response to the Iranian government’s ban on college admissions for members of the Bahá’í religion.

In each subsequent season, Crossing Borders Music has expanded the number of composers and cultural areas represented, and its reach. You can read more about our mission and impact, or about our more recent work.