A youth orchestra in Thailand that aims to counteract sectarian strife with music

Posted on: May 3, 2018

“The 14-year conflict between Muslim insurgents and authorities in Thailand’s three southernmost provinces has claimed more than 7,000 lives. But can music help bridge the sectarian divide?” writes Nanchanok Wongsamuth in Sunday’s (4/29) BBC.com. In 2007, Pongsak Yingchoncharoen, the mayor of Yala, “set up a youth orchestra, made up of children from both sides of the [Buddhist-Muslim] sectarian divide…. 120 students applied to join. [At] the first performance … in December 2007, thousands of people filled the hall to watch…. Today some 150 young people play regularly in the orchestra—and Pongsak says 650 have already graduated from the ensemble. Among the players is trumpeter Kasidach Chatree … He says the orchestra has given him hope, and changed his outlook. ‘Talking to Muslims and learning the words in their language and their food—that’s a new experience for me,’ he says…. Yala youth orchestra has toured widely, and the model has been replicated” elsewhere in Thailand. Says Weerasak Aksornteang, the youth orchestra’s conductor, “If we do this for another 10 to 20 years, let’s say around 50% come back to work in Yala.… That will make the city a much better place to live in.”

Posted May 3, 2018