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.