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Afghan Youth Orchestra debuts at Kennedy Center & Carnegie Hall this month

Newly arrived on American soil, the Afghan Youth Orchestra (AYO) and other ensembles of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) – the war-torn nation’s sole music academy – eagerly anticipate making their U.S. debut at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC on February 7 and their New York debut at Carnegie Hall five days later (Feb 12). These two milestone events crown the ensembles’ historic first U.S. tour. Presented by the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan, for which ANIM is a model school, the tour has already generated major media buzz, with feature articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and more.
 
As the Washington Post reports, in a story titled “Afghan Youth Orchestra brings message of hope”:
 
“Half of the school’s 141 students are orphans or former street hawkers. Children from every ethnic group and social class attend the school, where tuition is free, and 35 girls are enrolled. For the poorest students, the school is the jolt out of poverty. … The tour symbolizes progress in a country crippled by war. … Violins could become the most powerful weapons of counterinsurgency.”
 
ANIM’s remarkable achievements also drew notice in the New York Times. By “putting musical instruments into the hands of street kids and striving to make space for girls in a country where education is often denied them,” the Times explains, “the very existence of the school … is a significant achievement.” What’s more, the article suggests, “it might just be the happiest place in Kabul.” ANIM and its first U.S. tour received similarly positive coverage in both the Wall Street Journal and Travelers Today; links to these and the other features are provided below.
 
At the upcoming Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall concerts, ANIM will be represented by the AYO, conducted by ANIM violin teacher William Harvey, and three smaller ensembles: the Young Afghan Traditional Ensemble, led by ANIM Principal and ghichak teacher Muhammad Murad Sarkhosh; the Sitar and Sarod Ensemble, led by ANIM sitar/sarod teacher Irfan Muhammad Khan; and the Chamber Wind Ensemble, led by ANIM brass teacher James Herzog. Joined by Afghan and expatriate faculty members, including percussion teacher Norma Ferreira, cello teacher Avery Waite, piano/oboe teacher Allegra Boggess, and saxophone teacher Derek Beckvold, the performers will be drawn from the institute’s students, who are Afghans between 10 and 21 years of age.
 
Besides demonstrating their mastery of the orchestral and keyboard instruments of the Western classical tradition, they will draw on their homeland’s own rich musical heritage, playing on traditional stringed instruments – the rubab, sitar, sarod, dilruba, tanbur, and ghichak – and the tabla drum. In an example of the invaluable youth exchange that characterizes the tour, ANIM’s students will play alongside American string players of their own age, from the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras at the Kennedy Center, and from the Scarsdale High School Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
 
Repertoire will include original arrangements by William Harvey of two favorites of the Western canon – Ravel’s Bolero and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – alongside examples of Afghan traditional and folk music. Award-winning Russian violinist Mikhail Simonyan joins the students to perform Lariya for violin, rubab and chamber orchestra, Harvey’s arrangement of a traditional rubab piece made famous by the Afghan rubab virtuoso Muhammad Omar (1905-80).
 
Additional tour highlights include a residency and concert at Boston’s New England Conservatory, master classes, school outreach concerts, and a wealth of further opportunities for cultural exchange. Funded by the United States Embassy in Kabul, the World Bank, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan, the tour will showcase the extraordinary success of ANIM. The institute was founded by Ahmad Sarmast, the first Afghan with a doctorate in music, who was awarded the 2009 David Chow Humanitarian Award for his “brave and selfless” efforts to rebuild and promote music education in Afghanistan.
 
Details of the ANIM ensembles’ two major U.S. appearances are provided below, and additional information is available at www.afghanistannationalinstituteofmusic.org.
 
 
Links to press coverage of ANIM tour:
 
New York Times, Feb 1: “How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall? First Enroll at the Kabul Music School
Travelers Today, Jan 31: “Afghan Youth Orchestra to Perform in U.S.
Wall Street Journal, Feb 1: “Young Afghans Face Backlash Over Music
Wall Street Journal, Jan 31: “From Kabul to Carnegie Hall
Washington Post, Feb 1: “Afghan Youth Orchestra brings message of hope two-week U.S. tour
Washington Post, Feb 1: “Afghan Youth Orchestra to Perform at the Kennedy Center
Washington Post, Feb 5: “Young Afghan musicians meet American peers in D.C.
 
 
Ensembles of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM): U.S. tour 2013
 
Feb 7 at 6pm; Washington, DC; Kennedy Center
 
AWAL MIR / SALIM SARMAST: Da zemong Ziba Watan
Afghan Youth Orchestra; William Harvey, conductor and arranger
side-by-side with members of the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras
 
AFGHAN TRADITIONAL: Folk song
Young Afghan Traditional Ensemble; Muhammed Murad Sarkhosh, leader
 
INDO-AFGHAN TRADITIONAL: Raga
Sitar and Sarod Ensemble; Irfan Muhammad Khan, leader; Mohammed Ehsan Arfan, assistant leader
 
AFGHAN TRADITIONAL / WILLIAM HARVEY: Lariya for Violin, Rubab, and Chamber Orchestra
Mikhail Simonyan, violin; Samim Zafar, rubab
 
ANTONIO VIVALDI / WILLIAM HARVEY: The Four Seasons of Afghanistan
Khial Mohammed Saqi Zada, rubab; Farshad Fayzi, sitar; Irfan Muhammad Khan, sarod; Ruhollah Baqizada, tanbur; Samihullah Sarwari, dilruba; Muhammad Murad Sarkhosh and Farhad Safari, ghichak; Samimullah Rafiq Zadah, tabla
 
AFGHAN FOLK SONG / SALIM SARMAST: Shakoko jan
Afghan Youth Orchestra; William Harvey, conductor and arranger
side-by-side with members of the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras
 
Feb 12 at 8pm; New York, NY; Carnegie Hall (Stern Auditorium)
 
AWAL MIR / SALIM SARMAST: Da zemong Ziba Watan
Afghan Youth Orchestra; William Harvey, conductor and arranger
side-by-side with members of the Scarsdale High School Orchestra
 
AFGHAN TRADITIONAL: Folk song
Young Afghan Traditional Ensemble; Mohammed Murad Sarkhosh, leader
 
INDO-AFGHAN TRADITIONAL: Raga
Sitar and Sarod Ensemble; Irfan Muhammad Khan, leader; Mohammed Ehsan Arfan, assistant leader
 
NAFEES AHMAD KHAN / WILLIAM HARVEY: Raga Bhopali
Farshad Faizi, sitar
 
FREDERIC CHOPIN / NATHAN MILSTEIN: Nocturne
Mikhail Simonyan, violin; Said Elham Fanous, piano
 
AFGHAN TRADITIONAL / WILLIAM HARVEY: Lariya for Violin, Rubab, and Chamber Orchestra
Mikhail Simonyan, violin; Samim Zafar, rubab
 
MAURICE RAVEL: Bolero
Afghan Youth Orchestra; William Harvey, conductor and arranger
side-by-side with members of the Scarsdale High School Orchestra
 
USTAD ZALAND / JAMES HERZOG: Ay Saraban
Chamber Wind Ensemble, James Herzog, director
 
ANTONIO VIVALDI / WILLIAM HARVEY: The Four Seasons of Afghanistan
Khial Mohammed Saqi Zada, rubab; Farshad Fayzi, sitar; Irfan Muhammad Khan, sarod; Ruhollah Baqizada, tanbur; Samihullah Sarwari, dilruba; Muhammad Murad Sarkhosh and Farhad Safari, ghichak; Samimullah Rafiq Zadah, tabla
 
AFGHAN FOLK SONG / SALIM SARMAST: Shakoko jan
Afghan Youth Orchestra; William Harvey, conductor and arranger
side-by-side with members of the Scarsdale High School Orchestra
 
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© 21C Media Group, February 2013

 

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