Monday, March 21, 2016

Gathering Music in Schools Around the World

Orchestra students standing for their ovation at the end of the concert
This past week I was asked to let a high school student borrow my cello. It is a little bit like allowing someone to borrow an appendage of your body--let alone someone whom you have never met. I heard there was an international music festival for high school students here in Doha at the American School of Doha. One cellists's instrument had been broken in the transport from Korea, and she desperately needed a cello (there are not a plethora of cellos in Doha, Qatar). I agreed. But as many things in life that you timorously consent to, trusting in those people who see the whole perspective, the result can be surprisingly satisfying, even joyous.

Daisy, from Korea, who borrowed by cello.
This past week the American School of Doha hosted the Association of Music in International Schools (otherwise known as AMIS). Amis is also appropriately the French word for friends. Two hundred high schools students (going to international schools) had come from five continents--from Japan to London, South America, and Lagos, Nigeria. They had auditioned back in October from all over the world, sending in their music to judges, and had been practicing by themselves at home for several months before they descended on Doha.

Since March is the month people celebrate Music in the Schools, the festival was perfect timing. We attended the gala concert after several days of workshops. I was awestruck at the result of what 200 high school students can accomplish in just a few short days (although they had been working on the music for about four months in their home countries). One of the students commented, "I wish the world could see and understand how we can all come from different persuasions, opinions, politics, and make this beautiful music. Boundaries fade, and we just all share the same stage, with the same goal." Another student said, "My dad was able to come, and I had never seen him wear a tie, and I also had never seen him cry."

I did not have a child up on the stage, but I still had a tear. I was happy that my borrowed cello was a participant up on the stage. It is amazing to view what can happen when people come, unified in purpose and mind, from all over the world--to uplift with their talents and work. As an audience, we all came together for a brief time to see what the cultural arts can bring to society. The fifty countries that were represented are better because of the students who represented of them. One could not only hear the music, but feel the friendships that had occurred in a few days in Doha. Connections and bonds were made because each of these students prizes one thing: music.

As gifted as the students played, it was obvious that each of those musicians had been taught well, by a teacher who had worked with them, patiently, diligently. I salute the students, but the festival reminded me of my own music teachers, my children's music teachers. As Henry Adams said, "A teacher affects eternity. They can never tell where their teaching stops." And since this was an international student music festival, I have a feeling that these musicians will never be the same. They will not allow boundaries and walls to define friendships. It is an important reminder that a teacher can never estimate where all their teaching and tutoring will travel--to the most remote corners of this world. That is the power of a teacher.

A child who plays music may sound ordinary or typical, but you never know the ripples that student will eventually transport. That little child could cross thousands of borders in a lifetime....

Two students from Lagos, Nigeria

Four players in the band from Luxenburg, China, Switzerland, and Germany
A French horn player, hailing from Amsterdam, who goes to school in Zurich.

Obviously, I loved watching the cello section. They were from Korea, China, Taiwan, London, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Abu Dhabi, India--most anywhere you can think of. Their concert was truly a global project.

A teacher from Brussels, with the students from her school.

A student from London with her father.

Two friends, from Switzerland and Amsterdam


  1. Hi Maryan. As a music educator and member of AMIS present for the festival in Doha, I would like to thank you for your thoughtful post. You capture the whole intent of AMIS quite well, and your observations and insights are dead-on in my opinion and I appreciated all of your kind and supportive words regarding our students and the AMIS organization. I also love the photos of the students you posted, especially the one one of our two beautiful young women from Lagos!
    With best regards,
    Bob Peterman, The American International School of Lagos, Nigeria

  2. Thanks! It was a most wonderful event--not to be missed!!!!