US orchestra sets up program for Syrian refugees

April 20, 2017 by norman lebrecht


Not one of the Big Five, unfortunately, but kudos to Kalamazoo.

Kalamazoo, MI –  April 20, 2017   The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra is pleased to announce a new education initiative serving children of refugee families recently resettled in Kalamazoo. Orchestra Rouh offers regular, ongoing music instruction to children of Syrian and other refugee families. Rouh means both “hope” and “spirit” in Arabic, and the program is designed to nurture the emotional wellbeing of children through music instruction, led by teachers who are bilingual in English and Arabic, and including music from Arabic traditions.

Orchestra Rouh is offered under the umbrella of KSO Education Programs in partnership with the Suzuki Academy of Kalamazoo. The program was founded and is led by violinist Ahmed Tofiq, cellist Bashdar Sdiq, and Arabic instructor Hend Ezzat Hegab, who have been involved with refugee relief work in Kalamazoo for the past year and recognized the immediate need for positive social and learning activities to help reduce isolation for families and speed up children’s English language acquisition. Both music instructors, who are from Iraqi Kurdistan, recently completed master’s degrees in music at Western Michigan University, and have previously taught and toured with the Youth Orchestra of Iraq.


Comments (11)

  1. Max Grimm says:

    Churlish jawing match in 3…2…1…

    1. Steve P says:

      I’m 100% behind the idea of Western cultural activities for refugees. Anything to encourage assimilation.

      1. Brian says:

        And perhaps the orchestra and their audiences can learn something about the rich musical traditions of Syria too.

        It should be about mutual understanding, not conforming to “Western” standards.

        1. John Borstlap says:

          “Western” standards are an overall framework, within which all kinds of non-Western cultures can find a place.

  2. Nick says:

    @Brian:And perhaps the orchestra and their audiences can learn something about the rich musical traditions of Syria too.
    It should be about mutual understanding, not conforming to “Western” standards.

    WOW! Another multikulti!
    Yeah, sure the Kalamazoo orchestra and its audiences will learn more about Mozart and Beethoven, as well as Brahms and Tschaikowsky, Schostakovich and Schubert from the “rich” Syrian classical music traditions.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      Musical integration of Syrian refugees inevitably also means getting to know Western classical music. Western culture is universal and pluralistic, which means that things can exist next to each other.

  3. John Borstlap says:

    Great initiative. Should be followed everywhere.

  4. Angela says:

    Pls send a link on how one could donate/ support this initiative!

  5. Eric Booth says:

    Norman, I know you hate all things connected to El Sistema, especially anything written by me, but you should know there are El Sistema-inspired programs that work with refugees in Greece, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, and other countries. They do not follow a Suzuki pedagogy as the lovely program in Kalamazoo does; they use a variety of pedagogies that respond to local participants. Also, they emphasize frequency of instruction, providing lots of hours of engagement, to accelerate musical growth and sense of mastery, and to provide a positive antidote to the difficult conditions the students live in.

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      Your first statement is unfounded. The only text I have ever read by you is a hagiography of El Sistema that ignores its use by the Venezuelan Government as a cover-up for its coruptions, a point which I duly made in review. I am aware of Sistema programs in Europe and report on them from time to time.

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