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

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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 rubab, sitar, sarod, dilruba, tanbur, and 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).
 
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.”
 
In a country where, as the Wall Street Journal notes, “there are some 70,000 street children in Kabul alone and as many as 600,000 across Afghanistan,” it is of the most profound significance that half of ANIM’s students come from such disadvantaged backgrounds. Reuters observed:
 
“At Afghanistan’s sole music academy, students are taught music with the hope it will bring comfort in the face of war and poverty, bringing back cellos and violins to revive a rich musical legacy disrupted by decades of violence and suppression. ‘We are committed to build ruined lives through music, given its healing power,’ Ahmad Sarmast, head of ANIM, told Reuters.”
 
The impact of ANIM, which is seen as a model for future Afghan music schools, can hardly be overestimated. “An effective cultural barometer in the Muslim world,” as the Wall Street Journal put it, “music has the potential to move Afghan society away from fundamentalism toward more moderate cultural values.”
 
Vision of ANIM
 
ANIM is the first and foremost institution for the education and nurture of gifted young Afghan musicians. Integral to the school’s music program is a high-quality academic education, ensuring that students are able to achieve success at the highest level internationally as musicians, music educators, academics and specialists. The institute, located in Kabul, is committed to providing a dynamic, challenging, and safe learning environment for all students, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or social circumstances. ANIM focuses on supporting the most disadvantaged group in Afghan society – the orphans and street-working children – by helping them attain a vocation that will allow them to reach their full potential, while contributing to their emotional health. Through the provision of an internationally accredited curriculum, graduates will have the skills, creative vision and confidence to contribute to the artistic, social, and cultural life of Afghanistan and to the revival of Afghan music traditions. ANIM is the model for future music schools to be built throughout Afghanistan.
 
History of ANIM
 
The first music school under the auspices of the Ministry of Education was established in 1973. In the late 1980s, this school merged with the School of Fine Arts and operated until 1992, when civil war consumed Afghanistan. In 2001, the music department within the School of Fine Arts re-opened with many limitations: no rehearsal rooms, no trained music teachers, and no musical instruments. In 2006, Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, then a Research Fellow at the Monash Asia Institute in Melbourne, Australia, initiated the Revival of Afghan Music (ROAM) project. ROAM made nine recommendations, including the establishment of a music school. In 2007, Dr. Sarmast, with the support of Monash, discussed the establishment of a music institution with the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan; in April 2008, he went to Afghanistan to implement and lead his brainchild, and with the support of the World Bank, the National Association of Music Merchants, and other donors, Dr. Sarmast began the process of establishing the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM). A thorough renovation equipped an existing building with the facilities of a world-class music school, such as soundproofed rehearsal rooms, a high-quality collection of instruments, and an international faculty. An eleven-year curriculum was introduced.
 
This initiative received two prestigious international awards early on. The International Music Council (IMC) awarded the project the 2009 Musical Rights Award in recognition of ANIM's outstanding work in promoting and advancing the musical rights of the Afghan people through the creation of “new national institutions for music education in a country where musical life had been almost obliterated.” In December 2009, Dr. Sarmast received the 2009 David Chow Humanitarian Award in recognition of his “brave and selfless” efforts to rebuild and promote music education in Afghanistan. In March 2010, the international faculty began to arrive. As 2010 progressed, ANIM’s resources were augmented by the donation of instruments from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and the Society of Music Merchants, as well as instruments purchased by the World Bank. On June 20, 2010, ANIM was inaugurated before an audience of invited dignitaries. ANIM ensembles, including the Afghan Youth Orchestra, have frequently performed for President Hamid Karzai, members of the Afghan cabinet, ambassadors from many countries, and members of the Afghan community.
 
In December 2010, ANIM launched the first annual Afghanistan Winter Music Academy, the country’s first music festival combining performance and education. The Academy, which provides a variety of educational opportunities to its students, attracted 18 internationally acclaimed guest educators and performers from all over the world in its inaugural year. It has become an annual winter festival, and it is funded by the Embassies of the US, Denmark, Canada, and Finland, and by the Goethe Institute.
 
Other initiatives of ANIM include a Student Association whose members are elected in a completely democratic process and have a significant role in the daily life of the school. ANIM is proud to be a pioneer in the development of the Afghan student government process, which empowers students in the decision-making processes of their schools. Recently, ANIM began a partnership with the Kabul Blind School; ANIM introduces, develops, and nurtures the inherent musical skills of many of the school’s students, as well as assisting with their general educational and vocational development and reform. ANIM is also proud to have a student football club (FC ANIM), reflecting its promotion of health and physical fitness. ANIM is regularly featured in the local, national, and international media, including such outlets as the Associated Press, Al Jazeera, ABC (Australia), ABC (America), BBC, NBC, CNN, Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, among others. ANIM continues to expand its programs with the construction of a practice building, a concert hall, a dormitory, and a national conservatory. ANIM students recently toured Germany, Denmark, and Uzbekistan, and further local and international tours are planned.
 
* * * * *
 
ANIM founder Dr. Ahmad Naser Sarmast is a native of Afghanistan and a son of the late well-known Afghan composer, conductor, and musician Ustad Salim Sarmast. Dr. Sarmast received his PhD in music from Monash University, Australia in 2005; he received his MA in musicology/ethnomusicology from the Moscow State Conservatorium in 1993, and his Bachelor Degree in performance and music education from the same school. He has conducted research on music of Afghanistan since 1993, resulting in the landmark book A Survey of the History of Music in Afghanistan. He is a Research Fellow of the School of Music-Conservatorium and Monash Asia Institute of Monash University and an Honorary Fellow of the National College of Music, London. His research areas also include music of North India, Central Asia, and Iran. His publications include “The naghma-ye chartuk of Afghanistan: a new perspective on the origin of a solo instrumental genre” and “Ustad Mohammad Salim Sarmast: a 20th-century composer, and the first symphonic score of Afghanistan.” Dr. Sarmast is a member of the Musicological Society of Australia and Union of Artists' Association of Afghanistan. His report Music in Afghanistan Today provided the framework upon which the Revival of Afghan Music Project (ROAM) was developed; ROAM become the basis for ANIM.
 
American violinist, conductor, and composer William Harvey has appeared as violin soloist at Carnegie Hall with the New York Youth Symphony and has performed concertos with orchestras in the Philippines, Mexico, and the USA. Since March 2010, he has served as the violin and viola teacher at ANIM. He is a founding conductor of the Afghan Youth Orchestra, for which he arranges all repertoire and which he has conducted six times for President Hamid Karzai and on the 2012 season finale of Afghan Star. He has served as concertmaster of the Spokane Symphony and as a fellow of The Academy, a program of Carnegie Hall, the Juilliard School, and the Weill Music Institute in partnership with the New York City Department of Education. As a conductor, he has led youth orchestras in Qatar, Mexico, Tunisia, the Philippines, and the USA. Harvey’s compositions have received more than a hundred performances. He earned his Master of Music from the Juilliard School and his Bachelor of Music from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. In 2005, Harvey founded Cultures in Harmony (CiH), an NGO that promotes cultural understanding through music. In 2010, CiH was named a Best Practice in International Cultural Engagement (along with the Kennedy Center & Library of Congress) by the US Center for Citizen Diplomacy. CiH workshops in Pakistan, Qatar, Egypt, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, and Mexico have benefited thousands of young musicians.
 
 
Ustad Irfan Muhammad Khan is the sarod and sitar teacher at ANIM. A master performer of the sarod, one of the most celebrated stringed instruments of North India, Khan represents the Lucknow-Shahjahanpur gharana, which has produced eminent sarod players since the 1790s. Us. Irfan was tutored by his father, the famous sarod player Us. Umar Khan, and his uncle Us. Ilyas Khan. Besides belonging to a traditional family of musicians – his predecessor Basat Khan was a direct descendent of Mia Tansen from the male line – Irfan holds a Sangeet Visharad (Bachelor of Music) and Sangeet Praveen (Master of Music). He also holds a B.A. in History from Kanpur University. Us. Irfan was chosen by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and External Affairs Ministry of India and sent on a delegation to Kabul, where he served as a sarod and sitar teacher for three years in the 1980s.
 
 
James Herzog is the instructor of trumpet, French horn, and trombone at ANIM, where he founded and directs the wind ensemble. He has performed frequently around Kabul as part of various groups and fusion ensembles. Hailing from the United States, Herzog holds degrees from Indiana University and Rowan University, and has completed most of his doctorate studies at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. He has performed with the Colorado Symphony, the Symphony in C, the New Jersey State Opera, the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra, the Garden State Philharmonic, and Seiji Ozawa’s New Japan Philharmonic in Tokyo, Japan, as well as touring Spain and Mexico with the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra.
 
Muhammad Murad Sarkhosh is the Principal of ANIM and its ghichak teacher, as well as the director of the Afghan Traditional Ensemble. Originally from the Shughnan district of Badakhshan province, Ustad Murad brings his expertise of this region to ANIM as well as his innovative technical knowledge of the ghichak, often crafting the students’ instruments by hand to meet their individual needs.
 
Mikhail Simonyan, from Novosibirsk, Russia, began to study the violin at age five. In 1999, at age 13, he made his New York debut performing Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the American Russian Young Artists Orchestra at Lincoln Center. In October 2009, he opened the New World Symphony’s concert season, performing Glazunov’s Violin Concerto under Michael Tilson Thomas. Other recent and upcoming highlights include his debut at the Vienna Musikverein and debuts with the New York Philharmonic with Bramwell Tovey, NHK Symphony Orchestra with Neville Marriner, the Dresden Philharmonic with Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and the Vancouver, Aarhus (Denmark), Iceland, and West Australian symphony orchestras. In 2009, Simonyan released his debut recording of the Prokofiev Sonatas for Violin and Piano and he made his Lincoln Center recital debut. In March 2010, he made his Paris recital debut at the Louvre museum and in February he was the featured soloist with London’s Philharmonia Orchestra in a private concert at Windsor Castle, with HRH Prince Charles in attendance. Simonyan has recently signed a multi-CD exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon.
 
 
 
Tour partners:
Ministry of Education of Afghanistan
Embassy of Afghanistan in the United States
Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations
Embassy of the United States in Afghanistan
United States Department of State
World Bank
Carnegie Corporation of New York
Monash University
Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras
Scarsdale High School
New England Conservatory
 
Details of the ANIM ensembles’ two major U.S. appearances are provided below, and additional information is available at www.afghanistannationalinstituteofmusic.org
 
 
Ensembles of the Afghan National Institute of Music (ANIM):
U.S. tour 2013
 
Feb 7 at 6pm; Washington, DC; Kennedy Center
 
AWAL MIR / SALIM SARMAST: Da zemong Ziba Watan
Afghan Youth Orchestra; William Harvey, conductor and arranger
side-by-side with members of the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras
 
AFGHAN TRADITIONAL: Folk song
Young Afghan Traditional Ensemble; Muhammed Murad Sarkhosh, leader
 
INDO-AFGHAN TRADITIONAL: Raga
Sitar and Sarod Ensemble; Irfan Muhammad Khan, leader; Mohammed Ehsan Arfan, assistant leader
 
AFGHAN TRADITIONAL / WILLIAM HARVEY: Lariya for Violin, Rubab, and Chamber Orchestra
Mikhail Simonyan, violin; Samim Zafar, rubab
 
ANTONIO VIVALDI / WILLIAM HARVEY: The Four Seasons of Afghanistan
Khial Mohammed Saqi Zada, rubab; Farshad Fayzi, sitar; Irfan Muhammad Khan, sarod; Ruhollah Baqizada, tanbur; Samihullah Sarwari, dilruba; Muhammad Murad Sarkhosh and Farhad Safari, ghichak; Samimullah Rafiq Zadah, tabla
 
AFGHAN FOLK SONG / SALIM SARMAST: Shakoko jan
Afghan Youth Orchestra; William Harvey, conductor and arranger
side-by-side with members of the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras
 
Feb 12 at 8pm; New York, NY; Carnegie Hall (Stern Auditorium)
 
AWAL MIR / SALIM SARMAST: Da zemong Ziba Watan
Afghan Youth Orchestra; William Harvey, conductor and arranger
side-by-side with members of the Scarsdale High School Orchestra
 
AFGHAN TRADITIONAL: Folk song
Young Afghan Traditional Ensemble; Mohammed Murad Sarkhosh, leader
 
INDO-AFGHAN TRADITIONAL: Raga
Sitar and Sarod Ensemble; Irfan Muhammad Khan, leader; Mohammed Ehsan Arfan, assistant leader
 
NAFEES AHMAD KHAN / WILLIAM HARVEY: Raga Bhopali
Farshad Faizi, sitar
 
FREDERIC CHOPIN / NATHAN MILSTEIN: Nocturne
Mikhail Simonyan, violin; Said Elham Fanous, piano
 
AFGHAN TRADITIONAL / WILLIAM HARVEY: Lariya for Violin, Rubab, and Chamber Orchestra
Mikhail Simonyan, violin; Samim Zafar, rubab
 
MAURICE RAVEL: Bolero
Afghan Youth Orchestra; William Harvey, conductor and arranger
side-by-side with members of the Scarsdale High School Orchestra
 
USTAD ZALAND / JAMES HERZOG: Ay Saraban
Chamber Wind Ensemble, James Herzog, director
ANTONIO VIVALDI / WILLIAM HARVEY: The Four Seasons of Afghanistan
Khial Mohammed Saqi Zada, rubab; Farshad Fayzi, sitar; Irfan Muhammad Khan, sarod; Ruhollah Baqizada, tanbur; Samihullah Sarwari, dilruba; Muhammad Murad Sarkhosh and Farhad Safari, ghichak; Samimullah Rafiq Zadah, tabla
 
AFGHAN FOLK SONG / SALIM SARMAST: Shakoko jan
Afghan Youth Orchestra; William Harvey, conductor and arranger
side-by-side with members of the Scarsdale High School Orchestra

Published: December 17, 2012

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