Ryuko is a music teacher and a volunteer for Musicians without Borders. She has worked with our partner program, Sounds Of Palestine, which uses music education as a medium for long term social change, offering regular lessons per week to the many participating children. For World Wide Music Day, Ryuko has organized a concert with nearly 70 children, comprised of five different ensembles from Muziekschool Amstelveen.
1. How did you find your way to music?
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t playing the violin so my journey of experiencing music came as naturally as reading or writing. I know that I was encouraged and supported throughout my childhood by my parents. When I was younger my father would spend nights playing the piano so his music filtered into my sleep and his mother, so my grandmother also played, perhaps also throughout the night. I don’t know how far back my ancestors have been sharing their music with me but it’s a romantic thought that perhaps it has been a long line of influence.
2. As a musician, have you experienced yourself the power of change music can evoke? If so, would you share your experience with us?
I was lucky to have worked in Sounds of Palestine in the summer of 2017. This school provides music lessons, orchestra and choir for children of the refugee camps in and around Bethlehem. There I felt a magnified sense of purpose that music provides. Music was the reason that brought them together but it was not just providing the opportunity to create something that would never have existed before but they were able to experience the excitement and pride of presenting this on a stage together. The children would tell me about themselves by explaining ‘I am a violinist’ or ‘I play the cello’, which I found wonderful because of how strongly their identity was tied up with being a musician. The power of music is sometimes so subtle and almost invisible but I witnessed it creating tangible positive identities.
3. Who are your top 3 social change makers?
Well this is a hard question, because there are so many social movements where inspiration can be found. Yet my mind goes towards the people I’ve met: friends, colleagues and organisations who strive for inclusion, for equality and for happy music making. There is Fabienne van Eck, the founder of Sounds of Palestine and others working for Musicians without Borders who do incredible and tireless work. I’ve found inspirational workers in the organization Vrolijkheid who provide music in asylum seeker centers in the Netherlands and also teachers in Muziekschool Amstelveen such as Wiesje Miedema who teachers music with such joy and intelligence. In short, there is a possibility for any of us to be in the top social change makers for someone else; we can be the social change makers.
4. What are you planning for WWMD this year?
This is going to be a joyful concert with nearly 70 children, comprised of five different ensembles from Muziekschool Amstelveen. We will be celebrating World (Wide) Music Day by playing pieces from Europe, Africa and the Middle East as well as Klezmer and Jewish songs. Donations will be going to Musicians without Borders to the above mentioned Sounds of Palestine.
5. If you could send a message to all musicians – social activists, what would it be?
Stay active and engaged with other musicians. This work needs to be shared, reinforced and encouraged. The more like-minded lovers of music and peace, the clearer our path is.
See the full World Wide Music Day Program here.