Many people speak about the healing power of music, and I was lucky enough to be able to experience the truth of the idea. In the summer of 2013, I traveled with my now-wife then co-dreamer Lauren to the Middle East to bring music to refugees. We called our project Music Heals Us and raised over $7,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to fulfill our mission statement: we have a moral obligation to provide a voice for the unheard children. We present our expression through our music as an example to them. And through our interactions, we establish relationships to show that community extends beyond racial, cultural, and geographic barriers.
We spent seven weeks traveling to different cities throughout Jordan and the West Bank. Our first workshop took place at a summer camp for Palestinian refugee children located in the Old City of Jerusalem. Our workshops consisted of three main parts: introductions, group building musical activities, and a performance at the end. It really amazed me how much vitality these children had. They ranged in age from 8 to 16 years old, but they all seemed uninhibited in their expression and happy to be inclusive of one another and of us. That day happened to be my birthday and after Lauren informed them, they treated ME to some beautiful birthday music. I thought we were bringing music and joy to them but they definitely brought some to us as well.
We did a workshop in Bethlehem in conjunction with a NGO called Shoruq. I still get excited thinking about that group of young people and the creativity and spontaneity of their musical expression. We split them into groups and gave them 10 minutes to compose rhythmic patterns which they would then perform. The kiddos were very cute with the basic rhythmic patterns we taught them. The teenagers came up with a musical performance that STOMP would be proud of, with complexity of rhythms, call-and-response, and hocket. If more people would pour their creativity into music like these kids and less into more violent endeavors, what a different world it would be.
One of my favorite workshops was a week-long camp we hosted in Mafraq, Jordan. The city took on (and is still taking on) a multitude of Syrian refugees and many of the children cannot possibly comprehend the situation. So we gave them a place to build community, and to learn about and experience the transformative power of music. Every day we had a different instrument for them to learn about, different ways to be reflective on what we are thankful for, and musical performances. Our hope is that we were able to impress on them how to constructively channel our energies into the creative endeavors of music, learn about our culture, and remember that the community of humanity can only be held together through a common language of music.
To learn more about our project, visit our blog at Music Heals Us.