The Al Quds College Of Music – Make Music Happen!

It all started as a rather unconventional idea five years ago. Working as a classical music manager in Europe and the Middle East, I was approached by Al Quds University to develop a College of Music for Jerusalem and the Westbank. The aim of the project was to create an open center for professional music education and to connect with the immense cultural richness and musical tradition that has been a part of Palestine since so many centuries. But it was clear from the beginning: we do not only want to revive history! We want to especially encourage the creation of contemporary music in the region. The results have already taken us on many exciting artistic adventures like the discovery of the Syrian composer Yazan Loujami.

Soon we were able to win internationally renowned musicians as teachers in our permanent team and many famous artists have visited and supported us throughout the years. I was grateful for the contributions of several artists of our agency K und K Wien who were maybe curious to see where their agent disappears to every month for at least a week. Most of our concerts take place in one of the many beautiful historic locations that Palestine offers. The Czech Republic donated a beautiful Petrof grand piano which came all the way from Plzen to Jerusalem and has since then served pianists of international reputation for their recitals.

A project we are especially proud of is our outreach program in the refugee camp of Shuafat. The head of the community center contacted us after reading about us in the newspaper. Little did we know about the waltzing classes we would soon give to girls from Shuafat, the percussion training, the instrument building courses for kids of the camp or the popular piano workshop concerts by French pianist Célimène Daudet.

Music as a Human Right

Music reflects our lives, identities and our believes in the future. I consider music as a human right. The right of free expression in a language that can reach everyone. I therefore believe that music plays a crucial role in a country like Palestine. It gives us the chance to overcome walls and borders and to send out a powerful sign of music and culture into the world. The most recent example was the successful Palestinian contribution to the UNESCO International Jazz Day on April 30th this year. In the very heart of the historic Old City of Jerusalem, the Austrian Hospice on the Via Dolorosa, hundreds of people of all nations gathered to listen to legendary jazz pieces and oriental jazz improvisations. UNESCO goodwill ambassador Herbie Hancock sent a message to Jerusalem stating that the participation of Palestine in this international event is “crucial to ensuring that all people continue to hear this positive message and the music behind it”.

Austrian accordionist Stefan Heckel, percussionist Raed Said from Jerusalem and oud player Bakr Khleifi fom Ramallah at the UNESCO International Jazz Day 2015.

Palestinian Music Library – global support for Palestinian Music Education

Whenever I tell artists or other music organizations about our promising students I am once again overwhelmed by the enormous interest, curiosity and will to support. This international commitment led to spectacular results, one of the most incredible developments is the establishment of a new Palestinian Music Library.

This library is an amazing example for the power of social media and HELLO STAGE played an important part in it. About a year ago I sent an e-mail to friends in Europe and the U.S.A. asking if they would be willing to send spare music material or instruments to Palestine. A few days later I found my e-mail shared via HELLO STAGE, facebook, twitter and several music platforms in the internet. Artists I never met before sent their music scores, CDs and instruments. Important music institutions donated whole sections of their own libraries. Among the many contributions is the highly precious heritage of the famous Austrian conductor Dietfried Bernet which his widow, actress Johanna Lonsky very generously decided to donate to the education of young musicians in Palestine.

The Future

“Thank you music, for being there when nobody else was”, was a sentence a young female student has recently posted on facebook. Well, what could be a bigger encouragement for us? But in order to be there for our students we rely more than ever on the commitment of the international music community and on the financial support of people who believe in the potential of young musicians who come from a region of crisis where holding on to your artistic dreams means to follow a rocky and sometimes literally impassable road. But we just have to make it happen. To make music happen is what the Al Quds College of Music Project is all about. Everyone who would like to join us on our way is “ahlan wa sahlan” (Arabic for very welcome) and I promise every step is worth it!

Petra R. Klose General Manager of “K und K Wien”/Director of the Al Quds College of Music Jerusalem
Author: Petra Klose
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