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Afghan Youth Orchestra Performs in US



From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report in Special English. The Afghan Youth Orchestra performed in the United States in February. Forty-eight young musicians traveled from Kabul to play at some of the most famous American music halls. They performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington and Carnegie Hall in New York City.

The last stop was Boston, Massachusetts, where they performed at the New England Conservatory of Music. The musicians perform versions of Western classical compositions and also traditional Afghan music. Violins and trumpets played along with a rubab and a sitar in a performance of "Bolero" by Maurice Ravel.

The State Department and the United States Embassy in Kabul funded most of the trip. Secretary of State John Kerry called the young musicians "ambassadors of peace." Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers banned music when they took power in 1996. Also, under the Taliban, girls were not permitted to be educated after the age of 8. Today, music is studied and played freely in Afghanistan. The musicians in the orchestra are male and female, and between the ages of 10 and 22. Most are orphans or were homeless.

Ahmad Sarmast started the orchestra. A few years ago he founded the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul. The youth orchestra developed from that school. Ahmad Sarmast says he is very pleased with the accomplishments in such a short time. He says the idea of the trip was to change the way people view Afghanistan. The children, he says, are ambassadors of Afghan culture whose efforts reflect the changes in their country in the last ten years.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Carolyn Presutti. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 21Feb2013)