“All the world’s a stage” 


Young musicians from all regions and religions in Iraq have given new meaning to Shakespeare’s words—turning their world into a symphony.  


Sulaymaniyah Youth Orchestra concert, September 15, 2014                        Photos courtesy Chia 


     Eight-year-old violinist, Zhuliya performing in Sulaymaniyah.


Chia is from Iraqi-Kurdistan. He is a new student of English but his real language is music.

BECAUSE of the fighting in Iraq, for two months there were no concerts in Sulaymaniyah. Then I got a call from our Youth Orchestra director that we will play a concert. Every chair in the hall was filled. I was so happy to play a concert again, especially with such lovely people.  We live far away from each other and the concert brought us together. It also brought the audience together. When you have war, when you see children playing music you feel so happy. Even people who think they hate each other—this feeling was gone while we were playing. We did not feel divided. We felt whole. 

     I also play with the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq. It brings Kurds, Arabs, Shias, Sunnis, Christians (and those with no religion) together.  You cannot imagine what it means to bring these people all together. At first it was very hard, but the director did funny things to help us come together. It is still not always easy to be with everyone. But because we must play well together, we must forget our differences. If you always thought that you could not be with a person because his face or religion is different from yours, now you understand that you can work with such a person even if you are not close. We are different, but there is no hatred. We learn to respect each other because we want to play well together. 

    The National Youth Orchestra started in 2009. I joined in 2010. In 2011 we played in Bonn, Germany at the Beethoven Festival.  The father of the solo violinist is German and her mother is Japanese. The Maestro is Scottish, the Concert Master is Arabic, and the bass players are Arabic, Kurdish and German. Outside the concert hall, the players come from places where they would never agree to be together. Here they are together. They stay together in one house. You cannot imagine how wonderful this is.  I love this orchestra!  For me, and for many musicians in Iraq, it is a big school for our country. —Chia

The orchestra performing in Germany.  Chia is the bass player in the middle [on right side of screen].  

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HOW do you start an orchestra in Iraq?  Listen to the amazing story below.

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