Music has always fascinated me since my childhood. I loved to hang out with my friends in school who used to jam. Even though I couldn't play any instrument back then, I would just watch them play, guitar in particular. I used to observe their fingers, how they played the chords. One day I went to my cousin's house and just tried out those finger positions on the guitar fret. Suddenly on my first try, I got a pretty decent chord sound (for the first try) and gradually I could at some point change some basic chords and sing songs.
However, I never thought that I would be doing music in my career. One concert changed my life. I happened to be in the audience at a jazz concert (without knowing that it was jazz) in Hamburg. I was just visiting a friend and I got invited to that concert. I was just so very touched by the performance that I decided to take proper music lessons. That was the first time in my life that I saw someone playing sax live, in front of me.
Back in Kathmandu, I got to know about this music school called Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory. I went there to take some jazz guitar lessons. Saxophone was not even in my mind till then, even though I loved the instrument. I used to play guitar in beginner's jazz combo. The more I started to learn and listen to jazz the more I got attracted to the sound of saxophone. Suddenly, I decided to buy a cheap Chinese alto sax and try it on my own. Luckily, I got to take some private lessons with my first saxophone teacher Mariano, also one of the founders of Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory. In no time I started to get gigs in KTM, since there was hardly any Nepali musicians playing sax on the live jazz scene. I used to get some private lessons here and there with some visiting artists in KTM.
My musical journey has all been a coincidence, but what a beautiful coincidence.
این داستان به زبان انگلیسی نوشته شده است. از فارسی ترجمه نشده است.
I was born in Kabul Afghanistan in 1999. Born into a family of eight.
My family had to leave the country two months after my birth in Kabul, the Taliban had come into power. My father was a military man and my mother a teacher, this made it very dangerous for my family. We left the country to Pakistan, and then we went to Iran.
I returned to Afghanistan at the age of eight and wanted to study in one of the schools. I was very enthusiastic about music, thus I went to the music school. I was so excited when I came to the music school. Unfortunately there were no instruments so I had to start on the piano. Four years later the school was revived, new musical instruments were brought to the school. Even their names were not familiar to us.
One day, I was walking through the corridor, suddenly I heard this instrument that totally captivated me. I came closer and saw a professor had arrived from abroad to teach music. I went to her and asked if I could play this instrument too, she said yes. This is how I started oboe. After playing oboe, my life changed completely.
I recently also graduated from Kabul University with a degree in music. After my graduation from music school, the school offered me a position as a junior faculty member. I still work at the school. Music has become my life and I cannot imagine doing anything else for the rest of my life.
La historia que voy a contar tiene que ver con la primera banda musical en la que toqué a los 12 años. Fue durante mi escuela primaria. Yo era el único en mi curso que estudiaba música y cantaba. En ese entonces a mi grupo de amigos y a mi nos gustaba una banda de rock argentino que se llama "La Renga" y yo había empezado a sacar unos temas en la guitarra. Un amigo que vio que tocaba y cantaba los temas me dijo que por qué no armábamos una banda para poder tocar los temas juntos. Le respondí que me encantaba la idea y entonces comenzamos a juntarnos.
"La revelión" fue el nombre que le pusimos a la banda. Pensábamos que eramos rebeldes escribiendo mal la palabra rebelión. En ese momento nos pareció divertido cambiar la "b" por una "v"... a fin de cuentas, teníamos 12 años. Mi amigo Mauro empezó a estudiar batería, otro compañero Pablo, la guitarra y Santiago el bajo. Nos juntamos todos los sábados a ensayar a lo largo de un año. Un día también fuimos a la sala de ensayo donde ensayaba "La renga" a conocerlos. Nos sacamos fotos con ellos y nos autografiaron remeras. También fuimos acompañados por nuestros padres a verlos tocar en vivo. Fue un año a puro rock. Al final del año, en la fiesta de egresados de la primaria, hicimos un recital en el patio del colegio para todos los estudiantes. Ese fue mi primer concierto en vivo, y el de todos. Con la plata de las entradas, recaudamos fondos para nuestro viaje de egresados. Recuerdo los nervios, la excitación y la música de ese show como si lo hubiera hecho ayer.
Elegí contar este momento porque tiene varias cosas que me resultan interesantes rescatar. La primera es la amistad. Creo que lo que logramos fue en gran parte gracias a eso y me llena mucho saber que fue así. Lo segundo, la espontaneidad y el trabajo en equipo para lograr un objetivo. Y finalmente saber reconocer el público para el que queríamos tocar y recibir el apoyo del colegio, de las maestras y de nuestros compañeros.
Este fue uno de los mejores recuerdos que tengo de la primaria y uno de los mejores shows en vivo que hice.
One week near the end of my senior year of high school, I received an email from the director of the Wellington, our local assisted living facility for senior citizens, that Glen had recently passed away and left me something that I needed to pick up at the front desk. I did not know Glen particularly well, but I did remember seeing her smiling face every week for the past year alongside the other devoted 70 to 100-year-old music students. I had known many of them for many more years from performing quartets or solos with my high school’s music club for the residents, but it was not until my senior year that I had the opportunity to teach a Music Appreciation Class to those in the audience who were interested in not just listening to the performances but learning about what they were hearing. I would teach them notation for rhythms and they would clap them out to classics such as Sinatra’s “My Way”, and we had some very enthusiastic vocalists who loved to sing along. These jam sessions were interspersed with classical music history lessons in which we would listen to a piece and then play games to see who could guess the composer and era in which it was written. Sometimes I would play a recording of a piece and lead a discussion in which everyone offered up their ideas about patterns that they noticed in the music and brainstormed stories and memories that the piece brought to mind.
Recently, I got the chance to combine music performance, history, and teaching in a similar way with my Tufts quartet through the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra Mosaic concert series. We played the Debussy string quartet at a branch of the Boston Public Library for a small audience, but we did not simply sit down and start the piece. Rather, with the score in hand, we explained the different role that each instrument plays in a string quartet, introduced the history of Debussy, demonstrated how different themes of the piece interact and re-occur throughout, and pointed out textural tactics that Debussy used to create various aural colors. I felt more connected to the audience than I ever had before and I could tell that the engagement was absolutely reciprocated, likely not only because they now knew what to listen for but also because they got to witness how we all think and interact as a group before hearing us play. Seeing the audience’s faces light up and ask questions reminded me of how inspired I used to feel after each session of the Music Appreciation Class.
Teaching music has always been one of my most engaging and rewarding pursuits, but never has its effect been manifested as directly as the day that I walked into the Wellington after receiving that email, curious as to what Glen could have left. There at the front desk was a beautiful painting of a violin/viola embroidered in an antique golden frame, willed to me. Every time I look at it, I am reminded of the invaluable fulfillment I get from teaching music to students young or old, and especially spreading classical music to audiences who may have not been exposed to it before.
About 5 years ago I was just starting my teaching career and I was teaching at a place that used to be a kindergarten in the morning and a musical institution after school hours.
At the time the situation in Damascus, the capital of Syria, wasn’t safe and things weren’t good, but people never stopped going to school or taking guitar lessons.
So as usual, I was going to my place of work right after school hours and I arrived a bit earlier than usual. The kids from the kindergarten were still there, so their teacher asked me if I could do something to cheer the kids up since they hadn’t been having the best days there. I suggested I’d play them a concert, so we sat them down on the stairs of their school and I sat on the floor and I started playing the songs that they memorized in their class while they sang and danced with me. That day, a little kid who was sad before I started playing music started dancing with me as soon as I played, and his eyes sparkled with joy and happiness.
That’s when I decided that I’ll spend whatever time I have educating and sending my musical message across the world, because if I am able to make even one sad child happy, I’d ask for nothing more.
In 2015, a colleague in Boston invited me to Ramallah, Palestine to spend two weeks working at the Al Kalmandjati School of Music. This organization, I was told, was founded in 2002 by a Palestinian violist named Ramzi. Without knowing much about Ramzi or the school of music, I set off to work with the flute players, pianists, and singers as a part of their annual summer music camp. The week before the trip, however, I got an idea to also work with the students on a collaborative project composing music together.
So on a hot August morning, our international teaching team arrived at the Tel Aviv airport and loaded into a van to start the trek across the dusty, rocky hills toward Ramallah. As soon as we stepped out of the van, we were greeted by dozens of young, smiling faces running to hug the teachers they recognized from summers past. Just before the workshop began, I could see in most of the teachers’ eyes that they were incredulous that we would able to create a piece of music in only 4 days with a group of students who had such a range of ages and backgrounds — some knew how to read music, others didn’t; only half of the group spoke English and I had only learned a few Arabic words.
When the composition ensemble was finally all assembled, I looked out at a group of students who seemed to be as doubtful as their teachers as to their ability to compose. That first day, I focused on doing fun and silly improvisational activities to show that there were no mistakes in composition, only discovery. Slowly, over the next few days the students opened up to me and began to trust their musical instincts. Then, on the third day we were working together on a part of the music where we had gotten stuck as a group the day before. In this part of the piece, we were using a line of poetry that described peaceful Palestinian villages. But we all agreed that the music seemed unfinished. I asked the group what they thought might come next, and one girl who had been quiet the past few days raised her hand. With everyone’s eyes on her, she softly spoke: “I think we should turn to violent sounds because nothing here stays peaceful for long.” Her words carried much weight and the other students nodded. So we began exploring how, with sounds, we could depict the violence that they’ve experienced in their community.
On the last day, it finally felt like we were a cohesive group of composers there together. The group decided to end our piece with a song, so we went into composing lyrics. The kids chose as their subject for the song the Al Kamandjati School of music. When it came time to perform, I had tears in their eyes hearing them sing the words they wrote, “Its life, it’s music” and “this is my second home.”
I was born in 1995 and raised in Nsambya, in the Kitooro slums of Kampala, Uganda. Born in a family of four, I lost my dad at the age of three and after a big family separation, remained with my Mum.
While on the streets of the Katwe slum, collecting scrap metal, I came across music. Inspired by a big marching band called M-Lisada, I requested to join the band at the age of four and they let me in, starting as a drum major in the band. It is at this moment when I fell in love with music. After years of being drum major, I moved on to the trombone, the best instrument on earth. It’s with M-Lisada that I met Brass For Africa and from that moment on, my life changed. I learned that music is not just a source of money and fun, but it comes with loads of life skills and it can change the world. I have now been involved in Brass For Africa programs for eight years, moving from just a mere trombone player to an apprentice, junior teacher, standard teacher, senior teacher and now the Assistant Director of Music Education. Because I loved music, Brass For Africa has given me the chance to meet some of the greatest musicians like Alison Balsom, Guy Baker, and Joshua Bell. Performing at Joshua Bell’s house in New York and at the Royal Albert Hall as a solo performer was a dream come true.
Music has changed my life and given me a chance to inspire kids in Africa, and for the last eight years I have taught music and life skills to about 480 students.
I am now 25 years of age, in my third year of law school, a trombone player, a junior orchestra conductor and the Assistant Director of Music Education at Brass For Africa, while participating in the Fellowship Program of Teach To Learn.
I must have been around 10 or so, when at my maternal grandfather’s place in one of the rooms, I was humming a melody which caught my aunt’s attention. In a way, it was she who discovered that music was in me and that I was endowed with a faculty to sing well. And that is how it all started perhaps…
I remember singing and listening to the old songs of the Golden Era (of the time of my parents’ and grandparents’ generation) and it was only with time that I realized music was a part of my family too. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that I’ve received it in inheritance from my father’s side of the family.
Occasionally, when I used to visit my extended family in my native state (Rajasthan), there used to be sessions where the elders, my cousins and I used to gather around and sing songs. Years went by and it was only after I entered middle school that I started taking formal lessons and training in Hindustani Classical Vocal music. All this while, (and even now, to some extent) my music remained confined to me and my family, for I never got into the performance aspect of it, and hence (needless to say), refrained from going up on stage and performing.
I was (and have been) pursuing music as a side passion along with my academics. Music Basti as an organization had been known to me for quite some time during my undergrad years too, but it was only when I started pursuing my Master’s that I applied for the role of a Teaching Artist there. And what a wonderful journey it has been — full of inspiration and learning. My experience at Music Basti gradually started to incline me towards the domain of arts and education, in general. I realized the potential that music (and the arts, in general) holds for bringing about positive social change. I have been with the organization for over two years now, and I have had no regrets or qualms whatsoever. This is actually the thing that I would love to do and continue further in life too, if possible. To me, the combination of music and education seems to be just about the right match.
One fine day that I had my usual class at one of the schools where I teach, I get visited by the founders of this wonderful initiative (Bob and Derek) for an observation session. Ideas and thoughts get exchanged, discussions ensue and I ultimately end up being a proud fellow of the first cohort of the TTL Fellowship program. I wish to be able to make use of this opportunity and use music to bring about larger, meaningful changes in society.