Michael Dabroski, director of music at Burlington College, is on a 2 week trip to the middle east. His mission? To bring music to local people who have not had access before.
My wife and I arrived in Ramallah in the West Bank, Palestine, a few days ago to rehearse and perform a series of concerts in various communities, meet local people and official dignitaries, and establish relationships to encourage future collaborations.
We arrived at our modest accommodations at 5:30am in the local Evangelical School, and within hours received the largest blizzard snowstorm that has hit the community in the last 40 years. We were without electricity, heat and food for approximately 48 hours. I slept in a Burton ski jacket with my hood over my head.
The municipality lacks snow removal services, sanitary disposal and the accommodations are not winterized. Despite these challenges, the "call to prayer" continued five times daily and I was humbled immediately by eight professional musicians from Italy, Germany, England, France, United States and Ramallah who gathered for hours in this tiny house using the light of day to rehearse works such as Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Bach Goldberg Variations, Mozart Oboe Quartet and Haydn Cello Concerto.
Quickly we learned that music and our passion to make it served as the reason why we are here. It didn't matter that we arrived as strangers, because music facilitated our communication. Our first three days involved intense music playing, short walks and elements of "survival" to keep warm and dry.
Tonight we visit Taybeh in Palestine to deliver our first concert. We cancelled our first concert in Gaza yesterday because of the terrible flooding. Fortunately the Israeli government and French consulate rescheduled our concert and accommodations in Gaza for Tuesday, December 17, and we will leave Ramallah at 7:30am to drive thru the checkpoints to Gaza. The restrictions to travel for Palestinians are severe; people cannot move about freely and require strict visas to do so.
Currently the United States does not recognize the government of Gaza (recognized as a terrorist state with all American travel there discouraged) however, there are people living there and enduring harsh circumstances, exacerbated by the current flooding emergency. However, I strongly believe that music (and this performance) can help create peaceful change, strengthen mutual respect and inspire people to maximize their constructive and positive gifts which benefit community.
I've trained all my life to play the violin and create purpose and relevance for my art. I can think of no better challenge than to sit in front of a crowded room of citizens in Gaza sharing music written by Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I look forward to sharing these beautiful melodies, playing my best, and sharing a warm smile.