Iraq and Syrian scholarship recipients 2016

Chia Sultan Ahmed: Bass/cello player

Our first musical scholarship of 2016 was awarded to Chia Sultan Ahmed (23), a bass/cello player enrolled at the Conservatorio di Musica “Giuseppe Tartini” in Trieste, Italy.

Chia is studying Double bass at the bachelor’s level. Chia is a Kurd from Ranya, Iraq who was a member of the NYO Iraq since its inception in 2009. Unable to obtain funds from Iraqi sources due to the continuing war to oust DAESH in Northern Iraq, Chia through the encouragement of a music acquaintance applied to the Conservatorio di Musica. A self-trained musician who avails himself of every opportunity, Chia wants to acquire his music degree in Western Classical Music as a result of his experiences with the NYOIraq under Scots Conductor Paul MacAlindin and in several weeklong master class workshops held in Sulymaniah, Iraq.

Chia traveled with the NYOI Orchestra for three week training sessions and observed other Youth Orchestras at The Beethoven Music Festival, Bonn, Germany; the Edinburgh Music Festival in Scotland; and the Cultural Festival in Aix-en-Provence, France.

Chia spent years of his childhood living in tents in refugee camps in Iran with his family. He was inspired by his artist father who encouraged his children to participate in their artistic/musical/educational interests wherever they lived. The children often found teachers on-line in the west and acquired music scores/works, which would take up to ten hours to upload on a computer unless the power was interrupted. Then, the process had to begin again.

Karoen Bagbodarian: Cellist and Rani Elias, solo cornet/trumpet player

Syrians with refugee status, Karoen and Rani live in the town of Marum, Provence of Groningen, the Netherlands. Formerly, they played for the National Symphony Orchestra of Syria.

Four years ago, when Rani and Karoen were driving back to their home outside Damascus after a performance with the Symphony Orchestra, they were stopped by soldiers and told that their area was under seige. All their belongings including instruments and music disappeared behind enemy lines. Rani said “I have never seen my home again.” They moved to Damascus to live with relatives. After three years, they were transferred from the Turkish Syrian border to Marum, The Netherlands where his mother and brother had lived for several years.

Since arriving in the Netherlands and to keep up their musical careers, Rani played with the Brass Band in Harkema, NL and Karoen was a cellist in the Veenkoloniaal Symfonie Orkest in Veendam.

In an article for Dagblad Noorden (Sept. 10, 2016) Rani pointed out that in Syria “Brass band music is unknown. It is fun because it is so totally different and really difficult.” I once said “Why don’t we do something a little easier just something beautiful, but it looks like they are only playing etudes.”

The journalist of the article commented that Rani’s remark was like “swearing in church as the brass band world is extremely competitive and each player has a broad range of musical talent and ability.” Later, Rani made contact with Klaas van der Woude the conductor of the Bazuin Oenkerk who offered him a place in the cornet section where he is the solo cornet player.

Rani continued, “that he was now aware the musical level in the Netherlands is very high compared to the musical standards in Syria.” Rani said, “I understand that in order to rebuild our professional music careers in the Netherlands we need to study.”

In September, they both began their Master Degree Studies at Hanzehogeschool, Prins Claus Conservatorium in Groningen, NL.

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What if one day we woke up in the cold, in the mud, in a tent all our personal possessions gone, and we had to start over from scratch not knowing when or where we would have our next meal? How would we gather the strength and courage to remake our lives?

The young people we support have faced these obstacles. They have survived and live in hope that one day their lives will be better, maybe like it used to be. In cold, dark forbidding places, they find warm solace in their music. Help us to help them pursue their dreams.