Harmony Beat

William Harvey's thoughts about cultural diplomacy and news about Cultures in Harmony, the non-profit he founded in 2005.

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Location: San Juan, Argentina

violinist, violist, educator, composer, conductor, arranger, cultural diplomat

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Condemnation of attack against concert in Afghanistan

I am devastated to learn that in Kabul, a performance at the Institut Français d'Afghanistan featuring students from Afghanistan National Institute of Music, where I worked from 2010 to 2014, was attacked. ANIM's fearless and courageous leader, Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, suffered a head injury. 

We are all Ahmad Sarmast, all of us who fight for the rights of girls to go to school, who believe that children everywhere should benefit from the joy of music. May his recovery be swift and complete, and may the thugs, extremists, and militants who disfigure Afghanistan be exterminated before they take more innocent lives. Just as Dr. Sarmast has already told the media that this attack only doubles his resolve to commit to the musical education of Afghan children, so does it double mine. 

Conducting the Afghan Youth Orchestra at the French Institute in February of 2012

I had planned on returning to Kabul from January 23 to February 13, and will not waver in those plans. These so-called terrorists do not deserve the name: Ahmad Sarmast and the brave girls, boys, and teachers of ANIM refuse to be terrorized, and so do I. May ANIM long hold aloft the lights of education, music, gender equality, and peace, beating back against the darkness.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Culture matters

Here's my contribution to #GivingTuesday #unselfie #culturematters. To donate to Cultures in Harmony, click here.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Announcing Our 10th Anniversary!

On January 1, 2005, I sat down at my bulky Apple computer in Indianapolis and typed out a concept paper proposing a concert tour of refugee camps and children’s hospitals around the world. Full of youthful idealism, I wrote: “If successful, this tour would lay the groundwork for future tours by other young classical musicians.”

Yes, I’m please to report: the project that resulted from that concept paper was successful, and it did indeed lay the groundwork for future work. With the expert advice of the WHO’s Dr. Everold Hosein, that first project in summer 2005 evolved into a collaboration with UNICEF in Moldova and teaching violin in Tunisia. 

That tour became the first project of Cultures in Harmony. I can hardly believe we turn 10 years old next month! First, and most importantly: thank you. Thank you to everyone who has brought us this far: individual donors, our partners in 13 countries around the world, the State Department, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, the Juilliard School, Indiana University, and many other institutions. 

Thank you to Dr. Solomon Guramatunhu, the eye doctor in Zimbabwe who best described what we aim to achieve when he exclaimed, after a benefit concert where our musicians raised enough money to restore sight to 145 people: “You form the ‘beautiful face of America’ that the world is yearning for.” 

What have we done in 10 years? We’ve taught thousands of young classical musicians from Mexico to Qatar. We’ve created compositions with indigenous groups in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. We’ve performed alongside sitar musicians in Pakistan and players of the mvet (a traditional string instrument) in Cameroon. We’ve performed in a soccer stadium in Egypt, in prisons, in hospitals for victims of leprosy, and in schools. We’ve performed on national television everywhere from Belize to Pakistan. 

All of these different activities have shared a common goal: let’s bring people together through music. Let’s remember that an American cellist and a Pakistani guitarist have more in common than may appear to divide them, and that any differences they do have are cause for celebration. 

With that goal in mind, we’re pleased to announce the celebration of our 10th anniversary: the Passacaglia Project. With this project, we will travel in 2015 to all 13 countries where we have ever conducted projects. In each country, we will create a passacaglia with youth and local musicians. A passacaglia is a kind of music in which the variations change while the bass line stays the same. The constant bass line symbolizes what people share across cultural barriers, while the variations symbolize the differences we celebrate. Each passacaglia will reflect the culture where it will be composed. Each new composition will be recorded and collected on a CD.

This project will cost $100,000. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sending out short anecdotes about our work in each of the 13 countries where our journey of cultural understanding has taken us over the past decade. We have launched a series of donor initiatives to encourage you to donate: check them out here. Do you want to sponsor a participant? Or sponsor a passacaglia? You can choose!

I look forward to sharing some of our best stories from 10 years of musically-inspired cross-cultural friendships with you. As I do, please give generously. Extend the hand of friendship to someone on the other side of the world. Reach beyond the headlines of a world increasingly riven by suspicion and mistrust. 

The last sentence in the concept paper from 10 years ago that gave birth to Cultures in Harmony read: “I believe that the experience will provide further proof of the powerful role music plays in reminding people of the glory of which humanity is capable and the bonds we all share.” 

Let’s affirm the continued importance of those bonds in today’s world. Please give generously, celebrate our first decade, and look forward to more decades to come of bringing people together through the universal language of music.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Deputy Director in Pakistan

Our deputy director, classical pianist, rock guitarist, and entrepreneur Kimball Gallagher, will be in Pakistan the first week of December. His trip will take him to Lahore, Islamabad, and Karachi. Cultures in Harmony is pleased to support this important cultural diplomacy project and will bring you his updates. 

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Incredibly beautiful video from Philippines

Here is a beautiful, extraordinary video from one of our concerts in an idyllic community on an island in the Philippines during our August 2014 collaboration with the Cartwheel Foundation. Please watch the 3-minute video and then donate to Cultures in Harmony via our website. This video shows why it's so important to donate, so that we can keep giving performances as powerful as this one, so that we can keep bringing people together through music in a world where that's more important than it's ever been. 

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Egyptian version of "Happy"

The Nour Project, an Egyptian band that includes many musicians we performed with in 2012, has this catchy new version of the Pharrell Williams hit song "Happy."

Here's an interview with the band leader, saxophonist Nour Ashour, pictured below teaching a song to CiH flutist Allie Deaver-Petchenik in 2012.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Farewell to President Karzai

No leader of Afghanistan since King Zahir Shah (r. 1933-1973) has remained in power for as long as President Hamid Karzai. I wish that during his farewell address, the President had acknowledged that he was only in power thanks to the United States, which overruled the Afghan delegates in 2001 who wished to see the monarchy restored. No Afghan should have more reason to be grateful to the US than Karzai, and no Afghan not actually a member of the insurgency is less grateful to the US. 

Yet during his 13-year presidency, Afghans saw girls return to school and music return to society. They saw Afghanistan become an integrated member of the international community, complete with modern telecommunications, industry, and business. Many of these changes would not have occurred without the Western partners Karzai loved to insult, but also, they occurred due to his peerless and irreplaceable skill at managing former Taliban and former communists, republicans and monarchists, Pashtuns and Hazaras, Americans, Pakistanis, Iranians, and Indians. It is impossible to imagine his predecessor, the Taliban's Mullah Omar, publicly shaking hands with Afghan girls who had just performed music for him, and although his commitment to women's rights was sometimes superficial, he must be commended for the tremendous progress represented in my new cover photograph (from March 2013). 

Over the eight times I conducted for him, he came to know me, although he wrongly believed that I was German, one time looking around for me and asking, "Where is that German conductor?" I never had the guts to set him straight, figuring that since he liked the orchestra and valued the work of Dr. Sarmast in founding ANIM, he assumed that I was German, since Germany is the most popular Western country in Afghanistan. 

Now that he is leaving office, even though he is unlikely to ever read these words, I want to say: Your Excellency, thank you for your service. Thank you for doing the most difficult job in the world with grace, courage, and intelligence. Thank you for leaving the presidency when you said you would. Thank you for leaving Afghanistan infinitely better than you found it. But Your Excellency, I am not German. I am a proud citizen of the United States of America, a country that has done a lot for yours. May you enjoy the same life now, in your post-presidency, that all Afghans deserve: long, dignified, healthy, and peaceful.