Happy New Year and Happy Birthday, Cultures in Harmony!
Today is also the fifth birthday of Cultures in Harmony! Five years ago today, I wrote a concept paper for a project that seemed just crazy enough to work. That project turned into Project I of Cultures in Harmony. I am deeply indebted to Everold Hosein, Communications Advisor for the World Health Organization, without which that project would never have happened. He is the godfather of Cultures in Harmony.
Please celebrate the auspicious beginning of a decade and our birthday with a $5 donation to Cultures in Harmony. You can donate through the usual means, or pledge to donate to our Papua New Guinea project over at Kickstarter, a new site that helps non-profits raise money.
And now, for the sake of nostalgia, here is that concept paper of five years ago. Notice that it bears only a scant resemblance to the reality of the project it launched six months later:
January 1, 2005
A concert tour of refugee camps, children’s hospitals, and other venues, to be conducted under the aegis of the United Nations, in the summer of 2005.
I am a 22-year-old violinist studying in the graduate division of the Juilliard School. I have participated in numerous outreach activities, the highlight of which was a concert on September 16, 2001, when I performed for members of the Fighting Sixty-Ninth regiment as they recuperated from a long day of rescue and clean-up work at Ground Zero. As the first violinist of the Anne Stern Quartet in 2003, I presented fifteen concerts in elementary schools throughout Maine. In Manhattan in 2002, I played at the Ronald McDonald House and at the Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged. During my high school years in Indianapolis, I presented many concerts at healthcare facilities, public schools, and a young women’s correctional facility.
I have performed solo with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and served as concertmaster of the Juilliard Orchestra, as well as performing with that orchestra in Carnegie Hall. My recital experience includes public and private recitals in Paris and Istanbul as well as Chicago, Indianapolis, New York, Orlando, St. Louis, and Santa Barbara. I have performed solo on national radio (From the Top and Performance Today, NPR) and national television (The Judith Regan Show and Fox News Magazine, Fox). In May 2004, I earned a Bachelor’s of Music with highest distinction from Indiana University.
Reasons for interest:
After my 2001 performance for the Fighting Sixty-Ninth regiment, I became convinced that there are many people who do not normally have access to classical music but can benefit greatly from the emotional solace it provides. A couple months after that experience, I came across a November 20, 2001 article in the New York Times that confirmed my belief about music’s power to comfort. A 16-year-old named Ajmal from Jalalabad, Afghanistan, was quoted as saying, "We are searching for any kind of music. It's been six years since I heard music. There are no words to explain the happiness I think I will feel when I hear it."
In September 2003, during my last year at Indiana University, I joined the Bloomington Muslim Dialogue Group (www.bmdg.org). The group’s discussions and lectures led me to realize the importance of dialogue between faiths and cultures, especially in a post-9/11 world. The group sponsored a tour of Turkey in June 2004, during which I played violin for an esteemed ud teacher. I could not speak his language, and he could not speak mine, and yet through our combined music making we were able to communicate. This experience affirmed music’s role in dialogue and its ability to transcend the barriers between people.
This project would fill a void. On July 15, 1997, Maxim Vengerov became the first classical musician to be appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Since then, he has been joined only by the pianist Lang Lang. Obviously, I am not famous, as they are, nor do I seek to be a Goodwill Ambassador. But I believe that much good could be accomplished by musicians who are not as prominent or as renowned, and currently, I am not aware of any program which would connect such musicians with the performing opportunities such as have resulted from Vengerov’s association with UNICEF. The United States Information Agency used to offer a broad range of concerts abroad, but this program has been reduced.
The Juilliard School offers a Summer Grant Program, to which I could apply. I have contacts at Grantmakers in the Arts, Lincoln Center Consolidated Corporate Fund, and the Thirteen Fifty Foundation, as well as a few patrons in the private sector.
I would be available between Monday, May 23, 2005 and Friday, August 12, 2005. Because of my interest in and respect for Muslim culture, I would be primarily interested in going to countries in Northern Africa and the Middle East, but would also be eager to go to destinations throughout Africa, Asia, and Europe. I would be willing to present one or two performances per day.
The concerts themselves would be approximately 45 minutes to an hour. The repertoire would be broad-ranging, including the unaccompanied violin repertoire (Bach, Paganini, Ysaye, and others) as well as fiddle tunes. Also, I would use venues such as the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts to research folk music from the regions in which I would present the concerts, in order to perform that as well. The concerts would not consist entirely of playing, but would also include interaction with the audience, both before, during, and after the concert.
I would record my experience by keeping a diary, taking pictures, making recordings, and maintaining a website.
If successful, this tour would lay the groundwork for future tours by other young classical musicians from renowned schools, universities, and conservatories such as Juilliard, Curtis, Indiana University, New England Conservatory, and others. 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.