Afghan music school hopes to send orchestra to U.S.

Posted on: April 23, 2012

In Saturday’s (4/21) New York Times, Daniel J. Wakin writes, “One of the best-known facts about music in Afghanistan, at least in the West, is that it wasn’t. The Taliban banned it when they took power in 1996, beating musicians, burning instruments and destroying cassette tapes in the name of their severe and extreme vision of Islam. But with the Taliban’s fall, musical life revived, if slowly, in the shattered country. Ahmad Sarmast, an Afghan native and an expert on his nation’s music who was trained in Russia and Australia, opened up a rare entity in 2010: a music school for Afghan children. Now Mr. Sarmast and an American aide, William Harvey, want to send a youth orchestra to the United States to show the West that its sacrifice of lives and material in Afghanistan ‘is not gone in the wind,’ in Mr. Sarmast’s words. … Mr. Sarmast directs the school, the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. Mr. Harvey, a Juilliard graduate who directs a separate organization—Cultures in Harmony, which promotes unity through classical music with projects in various countries—teaches violin at the institute and conducts its Afghan Youth Orchestra. The institute teaches some 150 young people, about half orphans and street hawkers, Mr. Sarmast said. About 35 of the students are female, important in a country where women face obstacles to education.”

Posted April 23, 2012