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The Afghan orchestra is coming to America

William Harvey is an American violinist and conductor who has given a large chunk of his life to working ith Afghan kids.

Here are the fruits of his labours:

william-harvey (1)

Historic First U.S. Tour by Ensembles of Afghanistan National Institute of Music 

Includes Concerts at Kennedy Center (Feb 7) and Carnegie Hall (Feb 12)


“An upbeat Afghan story… It could have the power to continue changing society.” – Wall Street Journal on ANIM


The Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) breaks new ground this winter, when leading ensembles of the institute – the war-torn nation’s sole music academy, founded and directed by Ahmad Sarmast, the first Afghan with a doctorate in music – make their American debut with a U.S. tour (Feb 2–17). Presented by the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan, of which ANIM is a model school, this landmark visit will be crowned by performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC (Feb 7) and New York’s Carnegie Hall (Feb 12). These concerts will feature the Afghan Youth Orchestra (AYO) and other ANIM ensembles performing orchestral and chamber music on both Western and traditional instruments; collaborations with their contemporaries from American youth orchestras; and guest appearances by award-winning Russian violinist Mikhail Simonyan. Additional tour highlights include a residency and concert at Boston’s New England Conservatory, master classes, school outreach concerts, and a wealth of further opportunities for cultural exchange.


At the upcoming Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall concerts, ANIM will be represented by the AYO, conducted by ANIM violin teacher William Harvey, and three smaller ensembles: the Young Afghan Traditional Ensemble, led by ANIM Principal and ghichak teacher Muhammad Murad Sarkhosh; the Sitar and Sarod Ensemble, led by ANIM sitar/sarod teacher Irfan Muhammad Khan; and the Chamber Wind Ensemble, led by ANIM brass teacher James Herzog. Joined by Afghan and expatriate faculty members, including percussion teacher Norma Ferreira, cello teacher Avery Waite, piano/oboe teacher Allegra Boggess, and saxophone teacher Derek Beckvold, the performers will be drawn from the institute’s students, who are Afghans between 10 and 21 years of age.


Besides demonstrating their mastery of the orchestral and keyboard instruments of the Western classical tradition, they will draw on their homeland’s own rich musical heritage, playing on traditional stringed instruments – the rubabsitar, sarod, dilruba, tanburand ghichak – and the tabla drum. In a characteristic example of invaluable youth exchange, ANIM’s students will play alongside American string players of their own age, from the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras when they perform at the Kennedy Center, and from the Scarsdale High School Orchestra when they take the stage at Carnegie Hall.


Repertoire will include original arrangements by William Harvey of two favorites of the Western canon – Ravel’s Bolero and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – alongside examples of Afghan traditional and folk music. Mikhail Simonyan joins the students to perform Lariya for violin, rubab and chamber orchestra, Harvey’s arrangement of a traditional rubab piece made famous by the Afghan rubab virtuoso Muhammad Omar (1905-80).

Kabul mountain with city wall (2)

Funded by the United States Embassy in Kabul, the World Bank, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan, the tour will showcase the extraordinary success of ANIM. Founded by Ahmad Sarmast, winner of the 2009 David Chow Humanitarian Award for his “brave and selfless” efforts to rebuild and promote music education in Afghanistan, the remarkable school and its achievements have already attracted international notice. As the New York Times described in a recent feature,


“The Institute teaches some 150 young people, about half orphans and street hawkers. … About 35 of the students are female, important in a country where women face obstacles to education. The young people study both Western and Afghan instruments…and music theory from both cultures. Many of the Western instruments are donated, and the World Bank provides financial support. Tuition is free.”


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  1. The blame (and shame) go to the Republican-dominated U.S. Congress for making it impossible over the years for Obama to close down Guantánamo:

    • Greg Hlatky says:

      Please. The 111th Congress (2009-2011) was split 59D – 41R in the Senate and 255D – 179R in the House, overwhelmingly Democratic in short.

      H.R. 2346, a supplemental appropriations bill, was introduced on May 12, 2009. On May 19th, Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) introduced amendment 1133, “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act or any prior Act may be used to transfer, release, or incarcerate any individual who was detained as of May 19, 2009, at Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to or within the United States.” On May 20th, this amendment was agreed to in the Senate by a 90-6 vote. The vote on the final conference report, including amendment 1133, passed the House on June 16th by a 226-202 vote and the Senate on June 18th by a 91-5 vote. The President signed the bill on June 24th.

      Seems like it’s not just those evil, treasonous Republicans who don’t want Guantanamo prisoners in the US, it’s a bipartisan desire.

  2. I can’t think of a better way to create cross-cultural knowledge and understanding among young people. And probably for a lot less than wrapped stacks of $100 bills.

    Instead of having “business” mess around in the art world, why don’t we have those who truly know how to run arts and/or other nonprofits take over running things?

  3. Tsk, tsk, Reiner. Do not badmouth Great Leader and Teacher, he of the Mighty Drone and indiscriminate Sparrow Missile. It would be more fashionable of you to blame the NRA and the Tea Party.

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