Iraqi National Orchestra looks expand

Posted on: July 22, 2009

In Wednesday’s (7/22) New York Times , Steven Lee Myers writes from Baghdad, Iraq, “It was achievement enough that the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra managed to survive the darkest days of the war, when it struggled for supplies and electricity, when its members fled for safety abroad and those who remained practiced in secret for fear of offending militants who considered music un-Islamic. … Now the orchestra finds itself ‘out of the bottleneck,’ as [Chief Conductor Kareem] Wasfi put it, facing challenges in a post-conflict society that are no less daunting for being less immediately life-threatening. The orchestra is fighting for its budget, only now beginning to solicit corporate sponsorship in a country where the state once controlled all (and still does, if chaotically). Mr. Wasfi is lobbying to build an opera house in a country where electricity, clean water and garbage removal remain scarce services. … There are 85 [orchestra] members now, including 13 who recently returned from self-exile in Syria and the United Arab Emirates. (During rehearsal Mr. Wasfi chided one whose playing was off, ‘Are you thinking of Syria?’) The dearth of musicians also forced the orchestra to find and train aspiring young people; the youngest member is only 15. Mr. Wasfi dreams of building a full philharmonic orchestra with 120 players.”

Posted July 22, 2009