Harmony Beat

Violinist from Indiana traveling to all 50 states in 2016, asking: "What is American culture?"

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Location: Indianapolis, IN, United States

violinist, violist, teacher, composer, conductor, writer, cultural diplomat, traveler

Saturday, December 26, 2009

First competitive grant received

I am pleased to report that the Aaron Copland Fund for Music has awarded Cultures in Harmony a grant of $1,000 in support of our performances of contemporary American music.

One of the ways in which Cultures in Harmony represents the United States abroad is through performing its greatest classical music. We have performed the Quartet No. 5 by Philip Glass in Pakistan and the Philippines; Barber's Adagio for Strings in Tunisia and Pakistan; works by Virgil Thomson in Cameroon, Egypt, Papua New Guinea, and Qatar; and many other American pieces. We have also given premieres of works by a wide variety of American composers.

To listen to Cultures in Harmony perform American music, head over to our MySpace and check out the world premiere recording of Sextet by Ricardo Romaneiro, written especially for Project IV in the Philippines.

This grant is a momentous occasion for Cultures in Harmony, because it is the first time in our five-year history that we have ever received a foundation grant from a competitive application process.

We are so grateful to the Copland Fund for this recognition of our work. Thanks to their generosity, we are well positioned to return to the countries where we have forged friendships in the past. We have added the Copland Fund to our donors list, and of course, each of our projects in 2010 will also feature America's greatest contemporary music.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Article in Sing for Hope

Sing for Hope, the non-profit of which I am honored to be an artist member, has featured the origin story of Cultures in Harmony in this lovely article by Kelley Rourke.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How Music Stopped An Extremist

To celebrate our fifth birthday on January 1, we have brought you five stories from each of our five years of projects. The final anecdote is the most powerful:

2009: How Music Stopped an Extremist

Since it is a grim tale for this time of year, Cultures in Harmony would like to extend the warmest of holiday greetings with this whimsical video, part of our Paganini Caprice Challenge, designed by South African composer Matthijs van Dijk.

If you include Cultures in Harmony in your year-end charitable giving, know that you and donors like you do more than buy our plane tickets.

You change the life of a Tunisian violinist.

You show a Zimbabwean mbira player that he is not alone.

You help teenagers from a tribe in the Philippines discover their pride in their culture.

You make an extraordinary connection to a young man in Papua New Guinea.

One melody and one smile at a time, you build a community of friends spanning the globe, a community of people who discovered through musical encounters that our common humanity guides us towards tolerance and respect.

Give to Cultures in Harmony if you can, but know that you have already made a difference. You have already built peace through music. We value the support of each and every one of you.

May your holidays glow with the light of the love you have brought to the world.

Emily Holden lets children try her violin during our project in Pakistan.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Seeking board members

Cultures in Harmony is seeking additional board members with expertise in fund raising. Here is our profile on Board Net USA.

We are very happy with our current board, but we would like to expand the board in order to facilitate the growth of our organization.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

2008: Learning to Conduct in the Jungle

Our fifth birthday celebration fund drive is yielding some donations, but we are always happy to welcome new names to our donors list. Do you believe music has the power to connect cultures? Then make a tax-deductible contribution to Cultures in Harmony.

Today, we are featuring a wonderful story from our fourth year of doing projects. Click here to read about learning how to conduct in the jungle in Papua New Guinea.

The videos for Paganini 14 and Paganini 15 are posted, thanks to a recent donation of $1,000 from Galen Tromble and to the contributions of individual donors. Even when someone donates $5 it makes a huge difference, so go ahead and celebrate our 5th birthday with a $5 donation today!

Friday, December 11, 2009

2007: The Tribe Above the Clouds

Our fifth-birthday fund-raising initiative is off to a slow start; we have not gotten that many donations. Please check out today's anecdote from 2007, our third year of projects, and then make a tax-deductible donation to Cultures in Harmony to help celebrate our fifth birthday on January 1!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Applications due Saturday!

Apply now to participate in our projects in 2010.

Accepting the Nobel Peace Prize today in Oslo, President Barack Obama said: “Let us reach for the world that ought to be—that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls.” That sentence beautifully summarizes why I do Cultures in Harmony, and why any of us labor to make the world a better place.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

2006: Living as a Musician in Zimbabwe

When I think of my friend Onias, an orphaned musician my age struggling to make a living as a musician in Zimbabwe, I think of his hospitality on July 15, 2006.

He wanted to show us his hometown, so after a delightful visit with his uncle, we went to Wedza in search of a place to perform. He suggested a bar whose only customers were men drinking from unmarked jugs. The owner turned down the radio as I got out my violin to play a fast movement of Bach. Halfway through, Onias planted himself in front of me and pointed at his watch. He then said tersely, "Let's go." Turns out one of the fellows who had a bit to drink was anti-American and wanted to make trouble, so Onias had probably saved my life.

Determined to justify our outing, he stopped to buy yams and sugarcane from a group of women and children standing by the road. I played violin for the children, who giggled at the unfamiliar sounds. Onias improvised along with me on his mbira (thumb piano).

Over peanut butter sandwiches at his home in Marondera, Onias told me of his project to preserve traditional Shona culture. It became so successful that the National Arts Council decided to take the name for its own project and forced him to choose another name. That night, we heard Onias' band, Rovambira, play in the back lot of Tony's Kitchen, a restaurant in Marondera. Seeing the rapturous reception Rovambira received confirmed my commitment to maintaining the connection with Onias.

Since then, he and I keep in frequent e-mail contact. His organization took the name Kingsdowne Heritage House. I occasionally helped him and his friends work out the sorts of issues facing any non-profit, and I was astonished and delighted when, at the height of Zimbabwe's economic crisis, one of his colleagues asked me to review an application he wrote for funding from the National Arts Council, proof that hope never dies even at the darkest of times.

Onias is still at work playing music, teaching children, and preserving Shona culture. The last time I saw him on our last day in Zimbabwe three years ago, Onias spoke in Shona, which he did occasionally as a teasing way of testing my knowledge. "Fambai zvakanaka," he said. Go well. "Amai na baba." Mother and father. Then he said something I didn't understand. "What was that?" I asked.

He hesitated with the air of someone who thinks he might be asking too much. Then, he said softly that it would mean a lot to him if my parents sent him an e-mail. I found that I could not speak for a long time. When I recovered, I assured my orphaned friend that they would.

Help send Cultures in Harmony back to Zimbabwe to keep alive our connections with extraordinary people like Onias. Donate now.

Click here to read William's travelogue about the 2006 Zimbabwe project. Click here to read a travelogue about the 2007 Zimbabwe project by Sarah Frisof and Dawn Smith.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

New Paganini video and applications due

William has an adorable co-star in the video of Paganini's Caprice No. 13, now available at the webpage of the Paganini Caprice Challenge.

Applications for Cultures in Harmony's projects in 2010 are due on Saturday, December 12.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Cultures in Harmony Will Turn Five Years Old!

On January 1, 2010, Cultures in Harmony will turn five years old. Thank you all so much for bringing us to this point.

Here are five ways to help us celebrate five years of bringing people together through music:

1. Give five
Send us at least five e-mails for our mailing list.

2. Donate five
Give $5 more than you usually would. Give $5, $25, $55, $105, $505…you get the idea! Donors receive donor rewards at the levels advertised in our holiday store. Thank you to Galen Tromble for helping us kick-start this initiative with a donation of $1,000, which is $5 more than "awesome."

3. Tell five
Tell five people about Cultures in Harmony. Forward one of our blog posts or the website to five people.

4. Watch five
Go to the Cultures in Harmony YouTube channel and watch five videos, or go to our Flickr page and pick five pictures you like. Forward them to five friends.

5. Listen to five
Listen to five tracks of music recorded during our projects.

To keep everyone motivated and excited, we will post one anecdote every couple days from each of our five years of projects. Your donation to Cultures in Harmony supports friendships made possible through the universal language of music, so each story will focus on a friend or group of friends I have made and the impact of that friendship on our world.

2005: The Violinist Who Taught America About Tunisia

On the morning of July 3, 2005, in a fragrant flower garden in a suburb of Tunis, I met a young violinist named Nidhal. I gave him a lesson on Mozart's Fourth Concerto and quickly realized that his talent deserved more than I could offer. "Do you want to pursue music?" I asked him after couscous at his family's home a few days later. He would probably have to quit violin and study engineering, he responded sadly.

At the end of the week of master classes I taught at a school in Tunis' thousand-year-old medina, I urged Nidhal to apply for next summer's Indiana University String Academy. On July 13, still jet-lagged, I gave a recital at IU, and at dinner afterwards I urged Mimi Zweig, the director of the Academy, to accept Nidhal. After teaching me for five years, Mimi deserves credit for nearly everything I am as a musician, and she promised to take my recommendation seriously.

In the spring of 2006, Mimi accepted Nidhal, and that summer, he came to the United States for the first time. He was the first African ever to attend the String Academy. The questions he received from his fellow campers were, ah, interesting: "Do you have cars yet, or do you get around on camels?" "Do you beat your chests like Tarzan in Africa?" "Are you terrorists?"

Yet after four weeks, his easy smile and affable personality had won him many friends among the scores of campers. He attended again in 2007 and 2008, rising to the top ensemble at the Academy. He applied to attend IU's Jacobs School of Music, one of the very best in the world. Three years after worrying that a lack of opportunity for musicians in Tunisia would thwart his musical dreams, would he be accepted?

He was—with one of the highest scores awarded to incoming freshmen at the auditions.

Nidhal is just one among our dozens of Tunisian friends. Every year, we collaborate with the Association des Supporters de la Creation Musicale to teach Tunisia's finest young violinists, cellists, and pianists. We also study and perform with oud and kanun players. As both sides come to know one another, we learn about far more than each other's music.

Amal, a young female violinist, wrote in 2008: "You've changed the image that I had about Americans because you’re completely different. You're nice, kind, friendly, generous, awesome, beautiful."

Help us return to Tunisia to win friends one melody and one smile at a time. Donate to Cultures in Harmony today.

Click here to read the travelogue about Project I in Moldova and Tunisia in 2005. We have also conducted projects in Tunisia in 2007, 2008, and 2009.

These pictures show William and Nidhal on the same very long day in July 2008, first with William's dad in front of the Harvey home in Indianapolis, USA, and then with Nidhal's family in the Jebali home in Tunis, Tunisia.