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|Photo: Arab America|
In 1998, USC Professor Sandy Tolan was in Ramallah, Palestine, doing research for what would become his 2006 book, “The Lemon Tree.”
Sandy Tolan, "Children of the Stone"
While there, he saw a poster featuring two pictures of a young man. One picture showed him as an 8-year-old, throwing a rock at an unseen Israeli soldier, while the other showed him as an 18-year-old, playing the viola. It was an advertisement for the Palestine National Conservatory of Music.
But Tolan also saw it as “an advertisement for this idea of putting down the stone and picking up a musical instrument and creating a peaceful nation, a sovereign nation at peace with Israel, which was the hope at the time.”
Tolan found the boy, Ramzi Aburedwan, in a refugee camp, where he lived with his grandparents.
“I asked him what his dream was and [Aburedwan] said, ‘Well, I want to open music schools for Palestinian children so that they know there’s something besides a stone. They can have hope through music,’” Tolan recalled of their conversation, which he turned into a piece for National Public Radio.
Nearly 10 years later, the two ran into each other by chance in Ramallah. Since their last conversation, Aburedwan had received a scholarship to study music in France. He had returned to Palestine to build music schools, to do exactly what he told Tolan he’d do.
The impact of music
Tolan, professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, was inspired by Aburedwan’s persistence and spent the next few years documenting Aburedwan’s story and the impact his music has had on Palestinian people. Because of Aburedwan, hundreds of Palestinians are able to take music lessons every year.
The book, “Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land,” was published — and discussed at USC Annenberg — on April 7.
Tolan calls the book “a non-fiction novel.” He uses the story of Aburedwan — and his fellow Palestinian musicians — doing “something beautiful under grim and challenging circumstances” to engage readers, but also to get them to understand what life is truly like for Palestinian children under military occupation.
Most recently, however, Tolan and Aburedwan have been engaging readers in a much more intimate way. After the book’s release in April, they set off on a promotional tour that integrated Tolan’s text and Aburedwan’s music, accompanied by the ensemble Aburedwan founded, Dal’ouna.
“The Children of the Stone/Dal’Ouna Tour is a musical and literary tour de force, bridging cultural divides by promoting cross-cultural sharing through the fusion of unique musical and literary works, including Palestinian folk, world and classical music, jazz, combined with biographical narrative non-fiction,” according to the tour website.
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Source: USC News and Politics and Prose Channel (YouTube)