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

Sunday, March 29, 2009

U.S.-Cuban cultural diplomacy

Congratulations to the brave organizers and artists who made this extraordinary instance of cultural diplomacy between the United States and Cuba a reality. Through art, they have brought these two neighbors closer together.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Congratulations Taha!

Congratulations to Mohamed Taha Ben Mhenni! Taha studied with Sarah Crocker during our Musical Friends Academy in Tunisia in July 2008.

Taha won First Prize in Sfax, Tunisia, in the National Violin Festival last December. Recently, he won the Jury Prize at the National Festival of Young Music Players in Tunis El Krem. He also is first in his class in school with 18.75 out of 20.

Would you like to ensure that Taha can study with Sarah again this summer? Then please make a tax-deductible donation to Cultures in Harmony!

Here's a picture of Sarah teaching Taha.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Turkish concert

Ahmet Kilic is a friend of Cultures in Harmony's from Turkey. Please come to Columbia to support him!

Music at St. Paul's and Middle East Institute present:

THE SUFI CEREMONY OF RUMI:
Sufi Music Concert and a Whirling Dervish Performance

by Ahmet Erdogdular Ensemble

Ahmet Kilic(Ney)
Ismail Cimen(Ney)

And Kanun&Kudum


Tuesday March 24th 2009 at 6:00pm

ST. PAUL'S CHAPEL

Located on 117th Street and Amsterdam Avenue
Columbia University, New York, NY

FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

The Ottoman Mevlevi Sufi order of Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi has over the
centuries developed a sophisticated ceremony that integrated
compositions on Rumi's poetry with specific symbolic movements. A
unique symphony accompanied by the remembrance ceremony of the
whirling dervishes comprises the Ayin, reenacting the divine message
of unity.

Cultural diplomacy organization

I'm always happy to learn about the existence of another cultural diplomacy organization. Here's one called Sound Field.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Two cultural dialogue concerts in New York

With Culturarte here in Washington Heights, Cultures in Harmony has started "Juntos con Vecinos," an initiative promoting dialogue between Dominican and non-Dominican residents of the Heights. Part of Juntos con Vecinos is a monthly concert series. This Sunday, March 22, at 6:00 p.m., the Toomai Quintet will perform at Culturarte. Come if you can!

Three of my fellow Fellows in The Academy, have organized a terrific project that brings together refugee children with children from New York. The concert is Saturday, March 28, at 3:00 p.m. at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Letter to a young Muslim who thinks I should admire Hitler

Dear (name withheld),

I was saddened to receive your invitation to join a group called "Hitler Lovers."

I struggle to understand not only why you feel I would like to join this group, but also why you yourself would want to have anything to do with it. How can you admire someone responsible for the death of millions of people, someone who wanted to take over the world?

As a Muslim, you should reject a vicious, murderous, secular dictator who did not believe in religion himself and instead warped the religion of his country (Christianity) to serve his political ends. I am aware that historically, some Arabs and Muslims did embrace Hitler, but that does not mean they should now or that it was logical for them to do so then. Hitler valued only the so-called "Aryan" race, and had he not been stopped, it is madness to think he would have spared Arabs, blacks, or Latinos the fate he dealt to Jews.

I am also saddened because it seems that you do not understand what Cultures in Harmony is, and why we come to Muslim countries such as yours. We come because at this point in history, relations between Americans and Muslims are at their worst. We believe that by forging friendships between individual people, we can learn to see other groups as collections of individuals, rather than as stereotypes. We believe that the universal language of music reminds us that we all share common emotions, and that each human life has value.

Ours is a message of peace. How could you admire a man whose name is synonymous with death and destruction?

You say you are my friend; certainly, we are friends on Facebook. By Jewish law, I am Jewish, for even though I do not believe in Judaism, my mother's ancestry is 100% Jewish. Since I am your friend, how do you reconcile the anti-Semitism of Hitler with the fact of my Jewishness?

I hope that you think about what I have said, and acknowledge the consummate, unassailable evil of Adolph Hitler. Recent history offers innumerable figures more worthy of your admiration, starting with Elie Wiesel, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King, Jr. If you wish to admire a Muslim, may I suggest Mohammed El-Baradei, Muhammad Yunus, Shirin Ebadi, Ahmed Rashid, Queen Rania, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser, Nasr Abu-Zaid, Keith Ellison, to name just a few contemporary individuals.

I look forward to maintaining our friendship and this dialogue, and I look forward to receiving a Facebook invitation to join a group you start dedicated to one of the people I have mentioned.

Your friend,
William Rackow Harvey

p.s. "Harry Raccoli" is the name my great-grandfather made up when he immigrated to the U.S. He thought his actual name, "Samuel Rackow," would prompt anti-Semitism. My legal name is William Raccoli Harvey, but I have chosen this signature for obvious reasons.

Coverage in Dominican Press

Though I am here in the Dominican Republic to play as a member of the National Symphony, Cultures in Harmony has received considerable press attention. I even did an outreach concert yesterday at the Villa Bendicion, a beautifully-run orphanage here. Here are some pictures from that concert:






Today, a big article about me appeared in Clave, the leading weekly news magazine here. Download the PDF and go to page 34 to read the article in Spanish. I was also a guest on Freddy y Punto, the most-watched TV show in the Dominican Republic. The host, Freddy Beras-Goico, is one of the most beloved personalities in this country and has been regularly on television for nearly half a century. I can attest that he is a master interviewer, making me feel completely at ease and asking great questions even though I was speaking in Spanish and he did not know I was going to be on the show.



This is all thanks to Dr. Jorge Piña, the renowned poet and founder of Culturarte, the Dominican cultural center in the Washington Heights neighborhood in New York City. Walking past Culturarte one day, it struck me as wrong that I travel around the world talking about cultural dialogue, and yet I didn't know any Dominicans while living in a neighborhood of New York that is almost completely Dominican. So, I have partnered with Dr. Piña to launch "Juntos Con Vecinos," an initiative that aims to bring Dominicans and non-Dominicans together in New York.