On March 11, 2016, our Music Director Hanna Khoury and master percussionist and teaching artist Hafez Kotain travelled all the way to Jefferson School in Georgetown, Delaware to lead a full day of Arab music workshops with students in grades 1-8. The performing arts teacher, Ann Freeman, used our digital education tools to introduce the song Nassam ‘Alaina to students in advance. Each two grades (1+2, 3+4, 5+6, 7+8) were grouped together for an hour-long workshop with Hanna and Hafez. For part of the workshop, Hanna continued to teach Nassam – introducing the context of the song, pronunciation of Arabic words, and Arabic melody. The other half of the workshop, Hafez conducted hands-on introductory training on Arabic percussion, music notation, and rhythm.
Dina Abdelsalam, a Jefferson parent, initiated and facilitated the conversation to make this opportunity happen, in an effort to raise cultural awareness in her school. Dina’s children participated in Al-Bustan Kids Camp at the Philadelphia Zoo last year and she was impressed by how Al-Bustan teaching artists made learning fun for children of different age groups and how excited they were about drumming, the arts and Arabic language learning. With other Jefferson parents Ahmed Mohamed and Basant, they created a wider cultural experience providing Arabic food for staff and students throughout the workshops.
Teachers and administrators were thrilled with how the day played out, as Ms. Freeman wrote to us after,
As a teacher, I just want to add how moving it was to watch all our students grow and gain confidence during their hour with Hanna and Hafez. They could not stop talking about everything they learned. Age appropriate explanations were really helpful. The background of the song was kept simple for the young ones, but the older students really responded to the history and heartfelt emotion behind the poem. . .They enjoyed thinking about a culture starting with its language, but then going in different directions. This was such a successful event from so many viewpoints. Thank you so much.
These workshops would not have been possible without the support and excitement of the Jefferson School administration and the sponsorship of Bright Future Pediatrics.
Photos credits: Head of School Constance Hendricks, faculty member Ginger Jensen, parent Julia Pescor