Trade Winds Ensemble is a group of seven musicians who, in their own lives, prioritize excellence in music performance, educating youth, and responding to the social injustices we see in the world. TWE is Brian Gnojek, Jonathan Hannau, Suzanne Hannau, Ellen Hindson, Brandon Rumsey, Midori Samson, and Jamie Sanborn.

In 2013, we united to form TWE as a way to combine these three aspects of our musicianship. Our pilot residency took us to Nairobi, Kenya, where we partnered with several music institutions in the city and taught beginning music classes at the Rise and Shine Academy. We hosted a pilot project in Arusha, Tanzania at the Umoja Youth Centre and returned to Nairobi to work again with Rise and Shine. In 2017, we led workshops for Chicago-based organizations RefugeeOne and The People’s Music School. Most recently, we were guest teaching-artists with CEMUCHCA, Haiti’s premiere training ground for music teachers, for whom TWE offered workshops at their summer camp in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti. Please hover over “Projects” above to learn more about our work in these areas.

Trade Winds Ensemble holds high the inherent dignity and worth of every student with whom we make music. Instead of “teaching” music in a traditional sense, our artist-teachers are often facilitating our students’ learning, helping them to unleash the musicians within themselves, and encouraging them to create music from their own experiences. Each day of our residencies center around a different “Word of the Day” that serves as a unifying topic and point of departure for creating our lesson plans. Examples include “trust”, “voice”, “courage”, “individuality”, “joy”, and others, which draw upon qualities that we both believe we have as artists and are also vital to any individual’s experience in life.

With each partner organization, TWE collaborates to create curricula that fit the unique needs of the students the organization serves. So far, this has meant one-, two-, or three-week residencies which involve experimental composition exercises, creative writing activities, opportunity for self-reflection, body-percussion improvisation, song-writing in teams, drama games, and, if this form of study is relevant and available to our students, instrumental instruction. As a team, we acknowledge that working in sensitive geographic locations requires an ever-evolving mindset that is open to feedback and criticism. Our artist-teachers independently and collectively maintain a commitment to research in an effort to make an impact through our teaching methods in a way that is both respectful and responsible to the populations we serve.