Founder Tom Clowes has been teaching cello and Western-style music in Haitian summer music camps since 2000. Over the years, he fell in love with Haiti’s strong communities, proud history, and beautiful culture and arts. He learned of Haiti’s centuries-old Western classical music tradition, in which Haitian composers aimed to show the world that Haitians were just as capable and cultivated as any European, and that Haitian culture was just as worthy and dignified. He also became increasingly angered by dehumanizing stereotypes and misrepresentations of Haiti, and how those misrepresentations were used to justify terrible harm. In Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, before a radio interview, he asked Haitians, “What message do you want people in the US to hear about Haiti?” They responded that they wanted people to know about the beauty of Haiti and its culture, and how even in the face of horrible tragedy Haitians came together as one.
Upon his return, Clowes and the other founding board members of Crossing Borders Music in response created “Beyond the Headlines: Haiti in Music” which used music to share the beauty of Haiti. Although each subsequent season has expanded the number of cultural areas represented, the principles of representing people as they want to be represented and following their preferences have never changed.