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Orchestra Rouh

Rouh student


Orchestra Rouh is a free, year-around music program serving children of Syrian and other refugee families and recent immigrants newly resettled in Kalamazoo.

Rouh means both “hope” and “spirit” in Arabic, and the program is designed to nurture the emotional wellbeing of children through music instruction, led by teachers who are bilingual in English and Arabic, and including music from Arabic traditions.
Orchestra Rouh is offered under the umbrella of KSO Education Programs in partnership with the Suzuki Academy of Kalamazoo. The program was founded and is led by violinist Ahmed Tofiq, cellist Bashdar Sdiq, and Arabic instructor Hend Ezzat Hegab, all of whom have been involved with refugee relief work in Kalamazoo. They recognized the immediate need for positive social and learning activities to help reduce isolation for families and speed up children’s English language acquisition. Both music instructors, who are from Iraqi Kurdistan, recently completed master’s degrees in music at Western Michigan University, and have previously taught and toured with the Youth Orchestra of Iraq.
Orchestra Rouh participants meet four afternoons per week for violin and cello lessons and group classes at the Suzuki Academy of Kalamazoo. As they progress, they will be invited to take part in joint musical activities with the students of Suzuki Academy and KSO’s Kalamazoo Kids In Tune afterschool program to forge connections with other children. The program seeks to bring children together through music even in the absence of shared language. Traditional Arabic musical traditions and instruments are incorporated into instruction alongside western traditions.
String instruments for the program were generously provided by Meyer Music of Kalamazoo, and Suzuki Academy of Kalamazoo donates rehearsal space. The Irving S. Gilmore Foundation provided start-up funding, and additional grant applications are pending.