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Iraqi Kids growing up in the sound of explosions and sirens, find Refuge in Music

The motto of "Children's Orchestra," a summer program is “Culture fights backwardness and extremism”

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Iraqi kids playing musical instruments. Image source: VOA
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Sept 06, 2016: In Iraq and many other places in the world, children grow up to the sound of explosions and sirens too often. But in a classroom in Basra, a different sound surrounds them — music.

“Children’s Orchestra” is the brainchild of Adnan Sahi, head of the music department at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Basra. The motto of this summer program is “Culture fights backwardness and extremism.”

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“Human behavior in general, and children’s is a response to a stimulus- a reflection of their environment,” Sahi says. “What we’re trying do is keep the Iraqi child from the negative environmental effects caused by the surrounding violent tensions. We try to keep our children away from the language of violence, the language of exclusion.”

This is his work of art. He envisions the “Children’s Orchestra” as a safe haven for these children. Kids as young as five can join the program to learn a set of skills they would never pick up, if they were left to play in the streets.

Enrollment in this music school is free, but students had to buy their own instruments.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GofZbzDJvx0&feature=youtu.be

Ridha Falah says playing instruments is a unique experience for him. “I haven’t seen a piano before, only on TV,” he says, “but now we are playing with one in addition to the guitar and violin, so it’s way better than playing with toy guns and that sort of stuff.”

Instructors volunteer to work with kids because they share Sahi’s belief that music can shield children from the violence around them and provide them with a fun and positive summer experience before they go back to school.

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Basra’s “Children’s Orchestra” is not the first attempt to help kids heal and thrive through arts.Other projects included an art program in an Iraqi orphanage in Bagdad, and a ballet school in Arbeel.

Different approaches to the same end; using art to change Iraqi children’s lives, so they can change their world. (VOA)

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OrchKids- Bringing Joy To Underprivileged Kids Through Music

Nema was accepted into the Baltimore School for the Arts where she now studies music.

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Jazz
Jazz is like the first dance music. Free dancing, where you show free expression. You throw your body but nobody is doing the same two steps

In Baltimore, a free after school music program called OrchKids is being used as an instrument of change for children in underprivileged neighborhoods. In the past 10 years, more than 1,300 children have received free group music lessons, and free instruments, from flutes to trumpets to violins.

The program was started by Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, who said OrchKids also aims to create social change in a city where about 40 percent of the population live in poverty. She hopes that if more children of color learn an instrument that “orchestras will better reflect the diversity of our communities.”

For 15 year old Nema Robinson, OrchKids has given her more opportunities than she ever imagined. Four years ago, the quiet teenager started taking the group violin lessons and quickly progressed.

Her teacher, Ahreum Kim, grew up in Korea and studied at the prestigious Peabody Institute in Baltimore.

“Nema’s determination has helped make her a top violin student” Kim said. “OrchKids is doing a lot for Nema, by giving her confidence, the practice of being in front of an audience, and musical skills she can be proud of,” she added.

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Nema’s musical journey began when she and her mother, Susan Johnson, saw an OrchKids concert. Johnson was amazed to see black kids performing classical and opera music. “You just don’t see that,” she recalled thinking, “And I’m elbowing Nema and telling her, ‘This is what you should be doing.”

Nema enthusiastically agreed, and soon after started taking violin lessons that have given her the opportunity to play all kinds of music. She is especially proud of being a violinist in the Orchkids jazz band.

OrchKids has been instrumental in guiding many students, some from difficult backgrounds, by providing a place where they feel respected and safe.

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“Some of the students come into the class with baggage,” said Kim. “That could be due to poverty, or trouble at home. It is helpful when I learn about their families.”

Nema had a rough start in life as a drug addicted baby. With both her parents in prison, her aunt became her guardian and mother.

“She’s my number one supporter and has helped me a lot,” said Nema appreciatively. She pushes me. If it wasn’t for my mom I don’t think I would really be this good at playing the violin.”

Music
OrchKids has been instrumental in guiding many students.

Aside from the camaraderie and the encouragement that OrchKids provides, Nema also enjoys performing. I like seeing the audience, and their clapping and standing up after the performance,” she said. “It just makes my day.”

Thanks to her free violin lessons, Nema was accepted into the Baltimore School for the Arts where she now studies music.

Also Read: China Set To Spend Billionaire on ‘One Belt One Road’s, But Some Focus on Poverty

She hopes to earn a college degree in music so she can teach other black children, like herself, how to live their lives on a high note.

“It doesn’t matter what race you are, you can play music. If it’s your passion then it’s your passion,” Nema said with a smile. (VOA)