pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, music
director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, stepped across a barrier in 1999 by
performing a piano recital at the
Also in 1999, Barenboim launched the East-West Divan, bringing together young Arab and Israeli musicians for a two-week workshop. This summer in Chicago, a new group of young women and men from the
Berenboim says: "Music is a wonderful means of communication because it is not bound by language, race or geography and, as such, can be and should be a powerful way of communication and bringing people together."
This story is on the Web at:
VOA News -- July 31, 2001
Orchestra Builds Arab-Israeli Student Bridge
By Michael Leland
Chicago - The 19th century American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, called music the universal language of mankind. For the last three years, the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has used music to bring together young Arabs and Israelis to practice, perform and have an opportunity to talk about their differences. Participants in the program also find they have a lot in common.
One recent afternoon at Chicago's Orchestra Hall, 73 musicians from Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and other Middle Eastern countries sat down to one of their few remaining rehearsals. They were preparing for a concert that concludes three weeks of training with Daniel Barenboim, the director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
The musicians range in age from 15 to 25. All auditioned in their home countries to be a part of the third annual West-Eastern Divan Workshop. Mr. Barenboim began the workshop in
Mr. Barenboim says at the first workshop, he found the young people tolerant of each other, but wary - wary both of trusting one another, and of each others' musical abilities. "The degree of ignorance from both sides about the other - ignorance of the fears, the real aspirations of each side - this ignorance is really enormous," he said.
The students spend 9-10 hours a day in lessons and rehearsals. In the evenings, they get a chance to become better acquainted. Israeli cellist Imbal Meggido, 24, was attending her first workshop.
"For me," she said, "this is the way to go about moving things forward in the
Imbal Meggido says that tension is one reason she wanted to attend. She said, "This is really a place where you get to forget that and just deal with the people as human beings and not have to worry about politics. Having to worry about the bowings or the fingerings on a certain piece and then if you want to, you can talk about politics and try to make people understand the points of view." Students can choose to attend evening discussions on culture, politics and music.
During rehearsals, Mr. Barenboim arranges seating so that an Israeli and an Arab will share each music stand. "I do not believe that music solves any non-musical problems, said Maestro Barenboim. "It certainly will not solve the Middle Eastern conflict, but it does have a way not only of bringing people together, but giving them a lot of strength by the simple fact that they share a passion." Just about all of the participants plan careers in music. Mr. Barenboim hopes they will be able to establish those careers in the