As we wrap up 2018, enjoy 6 different powerful stories on our programs, the day-to-day challenges we face, and how we use music to transform lives. Our first story comes from Fabienne van Eck, Palestine Community Music Program Manager who shares a story about music making in Dura.
Working in a place like Palestine confronts us with many daily challenges; it’s easy to be swallowed by the obstacles and forget why we are doing this work. Most areas we work in are isolated, and occasionally, we find ourselves working with schools that initially need to be convinced by the Headmistress, that music making will indeed serve their students. It’s these isolated areas that prove to be the most rewarding for our music workshops; not only do the children end with happy smiling faces, but the teachers have also requested that we conduct music workshops with them. Our workshop in Dura is an example where the school and teachers not only requested a music workshop, but also requested training on how to conduct the workshops themselves.
Initially invited by the Red Crescent Society in Dura to give a workshop to 30 children and youth with special needs, we arrived to the workshop and found a group of children, ages 4 to 20, with varying special needs. Some children were able to talk and sing, and accompanied by the teachers and caretakers, we formed a circle. Beginning with some body percussion, to warm up, and also to gauge the possibilities of the group, we added new movements to the warm up routine, all inspired directly by the movements the children themselves were making.
While some groups copy your movements and sounds exactly, it’s truly refreshing to work with groups who do not imitate you, but incorporate their own movements or variations of movements. However, one aspect of these workshops that make it extra special, is that most of the children are not very vocal, so the communication takes place on another, more direct, deeper level. While words can get in the way of true and honest communication, these participants can show us directly if they like something or not. The contact is made through the music.
With a group of children with special needs, no ‘extra’ communication tools are available. The group is free from communication tools created by society or culture, which is what makes workshops like these extra rewarding. For example, when we play a dancing game, everyone is focused on the sound of the tablah – we become connected and ‘speak the same language’, regardless of the lack of words we use.
Following the workshop, the director made note at how concentrated and involved the children were, and have since, expressed a need for weekly music workshops. Since it’s not sustainable to travel once a week to Dura, we offered their twelve teachers and caretakers training in 2019. At Musicians Without Borders, we work to create long-term solutions and by training the staff, the people who are closest to these children, can provide them with music workshops and enjoy and share in their new language.
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