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Everyone Has a Story: Viterbo Teacher Takes Music Lesson to the Extreme

Mary Ellen Haupert is many things including an established musician and teacher but she doesn’t let labels define her.

"Society doesn’t have to tell me that I have to stay home all the time. Society doesn’t have to tell me that everyday there is this fixed thing that you do and that’s all that’s really expected of you.  You can create these expectations for yourself that are about endless possibility," said Mary Ellen.

Mary Ellen walks the walk.  In 2016 she exceeded her own expectations by embarking on a music project that would take her to a Palestinian refugee camp in East Jerusalem.  

"I think it’s important for all us especially in today’s world to get a taste of different cultures, to understand that it’s not the world revolving around us," said Mary Ellen.

The goal of the project was to teach her students at Viterbo and the students in the camp that art like life is about perspective.

"They leave every single day and just walk by garbage as if it’s normal, as if every kid does this," said Mary Ellen.

The project was bold and daring.  It was also terrifying.

"There were times when I was afraid but I was also with people who knew more than I did," said Mary Ellen.  

Mary Ellen says day to day life inside the camp is depressing. The students are surrounded by walls and garbage.  The experience filled her with sadness but also made her grateful for her own life.

"That to me is one of the greatest lessons that any one of us can have in humanity is that there are so many people that have so little. We have so much and yet they are so full of hope," said Mary Ellen.

Mary Ellen spreads her musical abilities between her roles as Music Director for Roncalli Newman Parish and as a tenured Professor of Music at Viterbo University.  Her true passion is writing chamber music.
To hear samples and learn more about her original works go to


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