*Maisa Abu Ghazaleh for PNN* – Music is the language of the people, one of the signs of excellence and growth believes the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music.

The programs and projects of the Conservatory clearly aim at improving the musical life for all age and socio-economic groups in the provinces of Palestine. It targets the disadvantaged to discover their talents as well as those with means.

To reach the largest possible number of students, media coordinator Ruba Anabtawi says that a new music program was launched in 1996 in the schools of the refugee camps and the private and public institutions outside. It was through this program in Amari Refugee Camp that Ramzi Abu Radwan and Ramadan Khattab were discovered. Both began as talented students who are now professionals.

“So many people are able to benefit from this experience. We assigned a number of teachers to give lessons in violin and cello to kindergarten students in Jerusalem, and to a girls’ school in Ramallah / Al Bireh.”

Students from six to 16 years of age are now accepted at children’s center in Jericho, refugee camps in Bethlehem and Ramallah, and in the center of Nablus.

In 2007 the Conservatory added the southern Bethlehem and Hebron villages where 60 children were able to study, while 36 students were trained in Nablus’ Askar Refugee Camp. Much of the funding for the programs comes from the European Union.

In 2008 and 2009 sites have been opened in Tubas where 36 male and female students are preparing while other location is being readied in western Ramallah’s Na’lin Village to serve 18 children. A four day intensive during July of this year trained 60 students.

Anabtawi told PNN that the Conservatory has recently begun implementing a program of education that targets children in the Old City of Jerusalem and its suburbs whose circumstances would not normally allow them the opportunity. Financial grants are offered with the support of the Spanish International Cooperation Agency in Jerusalem.

To ensure the highest rate of success, said Anabtawi, cooperation with a number of youth organizations within the Old City and its surroundings, and nearby villages are crucial.

Administrator of the Outdoor Education in the West Bank, Mohamed Fadl said that the idea of implementing the program in the heart of Jerusalem is part of the process of breaking down the isolation imposed on the city. “It is a challenge to all attempts to crush youth where citizens are mired in the worries of an ever-repressive occupation.”

He added, “The program is a space for children to walk in the world of music and play melodies against the walls of siege.”

Eleven year old Norhan has dreams of mastering the Oud. The sixth grader is one of the students who is able to take advantage of the program from the Hebron district. After school her hours are devoted to studying music free of charge. Violin, lute, flute are at her fingertips.

Norhan’s mother expressed her thanks to the Conservatory, but did not want her daughter to participate in a summer training in Bethlehem that would culminate in a performance in Italy because the political situation is too risky. The family added that nonetheless, the experience is unique and beautiful.