[UPDATE: We regret to announce this event has been canceled.]
Nathalie Joachim lives in two worlds—and happily so. Born in Brooklyn to Haitian parents, she grew up steeped in the folk culture of their homeland, which has become her homeland.
“I feel most at home there,” Joachim says of that poverty-stricken yet culturally rich island nation.
A life devoted to the folk culture of Haiti demands that she immerse herself in the people and the music of that country—so Joachim has traveled there countless times, usually once a year and twice each summer. “I just got back in August and will be going back again soon,” she notes in a conversation from her New Jersey home.
On Oct. 5 at 4:30 p.m., Joachim will deliver a keynote address as part of the College of Music’s Genevieve McVey Wisner Lectureship in the college’s Chamber Hall (S102), Imig Music Building. The event is free and open to all. Also catch the renowned composer, vocalist, instrumentalist and educator at the Renée Crown Wellness Institute on Oct. 5, 12:15-1:30 p.m., in a mentorship conversation—“Ask me anything” (limited seating, reserve your spot). Joachim will further meet with groups of music students and faculty during her three-day visit.
Though her life as a performing musician has won her fans around the world, Joachim’s credentials in the world of academia are equally strong—a graduate of The Juilliard School, she’s taught there and held faculty positions at Princeton University and the University of Hartford, in addition to serving as a mentor at numerous schools and youth music programs. As a gifted composer and flutist, her credits include a Grammy nomination, multiple recordings and performances with the duo Flutronix and Eighth Blackbird.
Those visits to Haiti and her family’s hometown of Dantan, particularly its tiny church, brought her close to the centuries-old culture of that country and how its people survived through poverty and political upheaval. “My family left Haiti in 1976 because of the dictator there [Jean-Claude Duvalier, known as “Baby Doc,” overthrown in 1986]. Mom was a teacher and dad was a lawyer. They encouraged me to learn Haiti’s history and culture. Our family goes back seven generations in Dantan.
“But it was my grandmother who was the biggest influence. She told me about her own experiences. She shared with me all the [Haitian] folk sources that became my music. The culture and the music, the songs, became one and the same. Where her story ended is where mine begins.”
Listening to Joachim’s recordings as a flutist reveals her superb instrumental musicianship, matched by her expressive singing of sacred and folk songs learned from those visits to the Haitian countryside. All display a joyfulness visible in videos of her infectious smile as she sings.
But it’s when Joachim speaks about life and music—with clarity, modesty and a voice filled with love—that one is drawn to a woman of exceptional warmth and beauty. This leads one to ask about the subject of her upcoming lecture on campus. “I want to share the community experience of life in Haiti,” Joachim replies. “It has a universal message.
“There is a human connectivity there. It’s in the neighborhoods, in the schools. There’s a community mindset—it’s a Haitian thing and it’s something that will feed all of us.
“When you feel good, you pay it forward. Music can do that, it connects us.”
Joachim speaks fondly of her annual and biannual visits to Haiti and to Dantan, her “home away from home.” Do they remember her when she visits? “Oh yes, they greet me as a friend, as a family member,” she responds without hesitation. “These are everyday people. It’s not because I’m some sort of celebrity. It’s part of how communities demonstrate caring for each other.”
So when she talks of the struggling people of Haiti, and particularly when she sings their songs, Joachim can’t help but lift her head back and smile. “There’s hope,” she answers. “There’s always hope.”
The Genevieve McVey Wisner Lectureship is supported by the College of Music’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) endowment and the Dean’s Annual Fund.