Iraqi Mayor, YES Academy Use Music And Arts To Improve Economy
The news out of Iraq seems always to be bad.
I did a Google search on the word Iraq and found headlines such as these, “Iraq hit by wave of attacks less than a week before elections,” “About 50 gunmen in military uniforms burst into offices of four independent newspapers,” “Two bombs explode and rip through tent at political rally in Baquba, Iraq,” and “A series of car bombings across Iraq on Monday.”
News outlets are naturally going to report the unrest in the Middle East. However, these are not the only stories of life in Iraq. In the midst of daily turmoil, Iraqi citizens are doing what they can to live “normal” lives, in spite of what’s going on around them.
One oasis in that troubled land is the YES Academy. YES stands for Youth Excellence on Stage. The YES Academy is not just one school or group, but a coalition of performing arts professionals who give their time and talents to work with aspiring youngsters ages 6-26 in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Jordan, and several other countries.
YES is based in Houston. They are a “non-profit organization with 17 years experience in cultural engagement and education programs in over 100 nations ranging from Afghanistan and Iraq to Venezuela and Burma.”
The organization, works with young people “in nations emerging from conflict or isolation with professional level training in music, dance and theater with a focus on those genres unique to the American experience, jazz, Broadway and hip-hop as well as classical art forms such as string orchestra, piano, voice and ballet.”
Mayor Serwan Sereni of Rwandz City is an accomplished musician. He performs Mendelssohn in the video above.
Originally from Kurdistan, he has spoken of spending his childhood dodging Iraqi army artillery shells. School was difficult to attend and he would wait in line for his turn to play the school-owned violin. Mayor Sereni has been an outspoken supporter of efforts to bring arts education to children in Iraq and elsewhere.
I find it extremely inspiring and encouraging that the citizens of this troubled part of our world find music and the arts a uniting force in their lives. I hope it helps those of us who have so much available at our fingertips to do whatever we can to make the arts available, not just for our own children, but for people around the world.
For more information
- Read more: Letter from Iraq: When a violinist becomes Mayor (St. Louis Post Dispatch)
- Read about current efforts to fund a 2013 academy (Voice of America)
- Watch a feature story about the YES Academy (Voice of America)