Can our string quartet give a refugee child a voice?main
The weekly diary of Anthea Kreston, violinist of the Berlin-based Artemis Quartet:
This week we are back to quartet. Several concerts of old repertoire allow us the rehearsal time to build new repertoire – this week we begin Haydn Op. 76 #1, Schumann 3 and Rihm 3. This next week we gather for a festival at a lake – Bebersee – where we play quartet concerts. Jason and I stay for another week of mixed chamber music – from Beethoven to Schnittke.
I returned this week to lend a hand at the Mit Macht Musik program for refugees. This time I was able to see a bit more of the facility – a community garden and a large courtyard with bicycles and children playing is nestled in between the horse-shoe shaped government building. As I walked up to the entrance I took a deep breath in – the smells of cooking hit me with a pungent wall of yum. I wanted to continue up another flight of stairs just to take a look at what was on the stove.
I was greeted with hugs from a couple of the students, all of whom respond enthusiastically to the music – the pieces being taught are familiar songs from the home countries – Afghanistan, Syria, Chechnya. I was happy to see more parents this time – coming to pick up kids and ask questions. I learned that there is a hierarchy of cultures even in this small refugee village – prejudices and long-standing clashes of cultures. Some countries have a history of an established educational system, and some not. Many of the women from particular countries have never attended a school themselves – do not know how to read or write, or the importance of regular attendance. The teachers try to impart this need to them – consistent attendance is a must – a difficult concept for a parent who has never been in a formal learning environment.
Some of the things I observed gave me heavy pause – and made me think that music is indeed a tool which can help bridge cultures, all of which have different priorities. To give a child a voice – a child who may have never had the opportunity to speak her (his) mind before, is a gift which can be given through music in a somewhat gentle way. Each person who had made it all the way from their homes to that village in Potsdam has courage the likes of which we will never be able to understand. And yet, the courage to find your own voice, the pride of discovery and creativity – of collaboration between people of different genders, ages, languages – with no hierarchy – these are things that happen in music – things that you do not realize you are teaching, or doing.
Some families allow their children this freedom, and some are still struggling with this new-found freedom of choice. With love and support of the teachers, I believe they will come to that music room and allow their children the choice to discover their own voices.