CEI Speaks With NPR's Robert Siegel


All of us at CEI would love to take a moment to reflect on a wonderful experience our founder and some of our friends had some years ago.  Cathy and some of her former students appeared on All Things Considered on National Public Radio with host Robert Siegel.  

Mr. Siegel retired after a long and extremely admirable career with NPR this past weekend, and we wanted to take the opportunity to share the impact a wonderful interview that he conducted in 1997 has had on us, and our work in Haiti. Mr. Siegel spoke with CEI Director Cathy Parrill of Birmingham and a group of young singers from Port-au-Prince, then called Meli Melo, a name which means, “eclectic mixture.”

Meli was composed of nine young men from Haiti who began singing in the group starting around age seven. During the interview, the young singers talked about the importance of music in Haiti, and of their dream to one day help other kids in Haiti have the chance to get a good music education.

The All Things Considered program shed a spotlight on them, and was influential in helping make their dream a reality. The following year, eight of the nine singers entered the University of Kansas together, where they continued the education they dreamed of.

Now, twenty years later, a young man who was a little boy when the young men of Meli sang in a choir with them, is keeping their dream alive. Jean Renel Louis was inspired by the older singers in Meli, and is continuing their dream. He is now the director of CEI’s music program in Jeannette, Haiti.  In many ways, Robert Siegel helped Jean Renel and CEI kick off that dream, and helped us have the confidence to reach for the stars.

NPR published an essay in June, 2011 that Cathy wrote about that interview with Mr. Siegel, for their "This I Believe" series.


Everyone involved with CEI would like to thank Robert for his many years of excellent radio programming on National Public Radio, and would like to specifically thank him for helping spread the dream that would inspire many more to come in Haiti.

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