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Fledgling Afghanistan music academy in cultural residency and exchange visit.

NEC Hosts Ensembles of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Three-Day Residency, Feb. 13—15.

Afghan Youth Orchestra, Other Western and Traditional Music Ensembles Make American Debut as part of First U.S. Tour

At NEC, Afghani Musicians Will Rehearse, Perform with American Counterparts, Take Part in Masterclasses, Cultural Exchange

Western classical and traditional music ensembles from the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM), the war-torn nation’s only music academy, will be in residence at New England Conservatory, February 13—15 as part of a debut tour to the United States, February 2—17.  Led by founder and director Ahmad Sarmast, the first Afghan with a doctorate in music, the group of 46 student musicians (ages 10—21), along with 16 Afghan and expatriate faculty members, will perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. (Feb. 7) and New York’s Carnegie Hall (Feb. 12) before coming to Boston for the most extended cultural exchange opportunity of the tour. 

The NEC residency is being coordinated by Tanya Kalmanovitch, Contemporary Improvisation, and Robert Labaree, NEC Intercultural Institute. Kalmanovitch has returned to ANIM several times in recent years, to teach during the annual Winter Music Academy.

The tour is presented by the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan with funding from the Ministry, the United States Embassy in Kabul, the World Bank, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

At NEC, the Afghan musicians will take part in rehearsal and performances with NEC students, and participate in instrumental masterclasses, workshops, and small ensemble coaching sessions. They will attend the Feb. 13 performance by the NEC Philharmonia conducted by Associate Director of Orchestras David Loebel; take part in a panel discussion on teaching music in international settings; and get acquainted with their Boston counterparts at mealtimes and during breaks. In addition, leaders of the two schools will engage in round table discussions focused on administration, partnership opportunities, and development.

Inaugurated in 2010 by Dr. Sarmast, winner of the 2009 David Chow Humanitarian Award for his “brave and selfless” efforts to rebuild and promote music education in Afghanistan, the ANIM and its achievements have already attracted international notice. As the New York Times described in a recent feature: “The Institute teaches some 150 young people, about half orphans and street hawkers. … About 35 of the students are female, important in a country where women face obstacles to education. The young people study both Western and Afghan instruments…and music theory from both cultures. Many of the Western instruments are donated, and the World Bank provides financial support. Tuition is free.”

In a country where, as the Wall Street Journal notes, “there are some 70,000 street children in Kabul alone and as many as 600,000 across Afghanistan,” it is of the most profound significance that half of ANIM’s students come from such disadvantaged backgrounds.
Reuters observed: “At Afghanistan’s sole music academy, students are taught music with the hope it will bring comfort in the face of war and poverty, bringing back cellos and violins to revive a rich musical legacy disrupted by decades of violence and suppression. ‘We are committed to build ruined lives through music, given its healing power,’” says Dr. Sarmast.
The impact of ANIM, which is seen as a model for future Afghan music schools, can hardly be overestimated. “An effective cultural barometer in the Muslim world,” as the Wall Street Journal put it, “music has the potential to move Afghan society away from fundamentalism toward more moderate cultural values.”

For complete information on the ANIM residency schedule, check the NEC Website or call the NEC Concert Line at 617-585-1122.  NEC’s Jordan Hall, Brown Hall, Williams Hall and the Keller Room are located at 30 Gainsborough St., corner of Huntington Ave. St. Botolph Hall is located at 241 St. Botolph St. between Gainsborough and Mass Ave.


Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory in Boston, MA offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to 720 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world.  Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars.  Its alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide.  Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.

The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions.  On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, contemporary improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Programs and Partnerships Program, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors.  Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music, jazz, and contemporary improvisation.

NEC presents more than 900 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, century-old, beautifully restored concert hall.  These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz, contemporary improvisation, and opera scenes.  Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre or Paramount Theatre in Boston.

NEC is co-founder and educational partner of From the Top, a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States

Contact: Ellen Pfeifer
Senior Communications Specialist
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115