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Culture

German musicians take their experience to Ramallah

Several members of the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin are in the Palestinian West Bank to share both their knowledge and the stage with young scholars of classical music.

Musicians work together

German professionals work with new Palestinian talent

Every now and then, a little squeak slips out, but the three young Palestinian clarinet players don't let it get to them. They start over and again until they have the piece pitch perfect. It's part of the workshop atmosphere at the Barenboim-Said Foundation's music academy in the center of Ramallah.

Martin Koegel, oboist with the German chamber ensemble Polyphonia - a subgroup of the Deutsche Symphonie Orchester Berlin - is more than happy with the students at the Palestinian music school. He and his fellow musicians have come to offer some additional training.

"For us, it's about meeting the kids where they are. We have young people here who began playing just a year ago and others that have five years experience," Koegel told Deutsche Welle. "With the more experienced players, we work on pieces together in small ensembles that we'll present in concert. And with the beginners, we are trying lay a foundation to help them play together and learn what's important in the process."

Making music

Inside the academy, music from all manner of instruments streams out of practice rooms into the halls. Even the offices are full of young musicians hard at work.

A boy playing the violin

Hard at play

Yara Khawaja practices cello under the watchful eyes of cellist Thomas Roesseler. The 11 year-old Palestinian player can scarcely be seen behind her instrument, which she has now been learning for two years. She says it took her a little while to get used to being in the presence of more experienced musicians.

"I was a little nervous at the beginning," Yara said. "But it's a great opportunity to be able to play with these professionals.

A rare opportunity

The school, which opened in 2006, is sponsored by the Barenboim-Said Foundation and is one of the few place in the Palestinian West Bank which teaches classical music. The foundation itself is largely financed by the Andalusian regional government in Spain. Nabeel Abboud Ashkar is director of the academy and stresses the importance of visits such as those from Polyphonia.


"Workshops with international musicians open doors - not just to the world of classical music, but also in terms of cultural dialogue," he said, adding that it is particularly important in conflict zones.

Martin Koegle also believes in the validity of working cross-culturally.

"People here are interested in classical music," he said, "but they don't have all the training and educational opportunities we have in Europe, for instance. And we want to do what we can to help."

Future professionals

Musicians on stage

Students take to the stage in Ramallah

Polyphonia musicians have already offered similar workshops in other countries, most recently in Algeria and Morocco. Then, as now, the projects were financed by the German Foreign Office and organized by Deutsche Welle.

As the Ramallah workshop comes to a close, the young players shift their attention to the three concerts they will give to show what they have learned.

The more accomplished musicians will play on stage alongside their tutors from Germany. But even for those at the beginning of their musical training, the concerts are an invaluable way of gaining valuable experience.

Author: Tania Kraemer (gsw)
Editor: Rick Fulker, Tamsin Walker

Click below to hear or download pieces from the concerts by the Polyphonia Ensemble Berlin and members of the Barenboim-Said Foundation in Ramallah and Jerusalem.

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