I just have to share a few “unusual” stories. But before I do, I want to make a shameless plug for my prize student at the Yes Academy, Miss Boran Zaza.
Boran handled herself with poise through a very rough week, and in the process still managed to be productive at the piano. After seeing her work as assistant manager for the YES Academy here in Iraq, interview with the media, film for the airport, work as my translator, and prepare for her performance tonight (and possibly at the Gala tomorrow), I was gratified to see that she got her due in the Kurdish Globe a few days ago.
Despite what the article says, Boran has never really had a teacher (just a “poor helper” for a few months of one year). Her father is a classical guitarist, and I suspect that is where she gets her sharp musical instincts. Her dream is to be the first professional piano teacher in Kurdistan. We are working to try to get her to Baylor for her Bachelors in Piano Pedagogy, but the hurdles will be formidable, to say the least. If not, she may possibly study in Europe. You can read the article here:
Boran at YES Academy Press Conference.
Boran and her best friend, my other translator Heja, took me to lunch yesterday. Heja is from Suli, a few hours north of here. They told me a couple of funny stories I want to share.
First, that at the Fine Arts Academy Suli, the cleaning crew decided to do the Academy a favor. Apparently, they were charged with cleaning the practice rooms and washing the floors. While they were at it, they decided to do the “right thing” and help the piano faculty by cleaning the pianos…inside and out with the water hose. Luckily, they were stopped just they were about to move on to the nicest grand piano.
Musicians will get the humor in this one: Boran also told me that she was recently supposed to do a recital with a cellist from another city. When he arrived for the first rehearsal, the cellist began playing the part written for the left hand of the piano. When Boran asked what was going on, the cellist said, “that is how we were all taught to play it.” The cellist thought that the cello part, along with the treble clef part, was to be played by the pianist.
And while on the subject of funny stories, this from John Ferguson, founder of Yes Academy, who relates that he was in Afghanistan last year to play a piano recital. When he walked on stage, there was the concert grand, sitting on three chairs, with the legs sawed off. Apparently, the Taliban had been there at one point, and had sawed the legs off the piano thinking that it would ruin it. The piano was fine, and the concert went on, even if the piano was “at a slight angle.”
And finally, my favorite story…
Robert, a music researcher from The Hague, occasionally bops in here at the “Modern City Hotel” from some research he is currently doing in Iraq. At lunch the other day he told me that had been in Afghanistan some years ago for some research on local folk music. He and some friends were driving in an area active with Taliban. They were listening to a Tracy Chapman tape in the car’s cassette player, when they suddenly turned a corner into an unexpected Taliban checkpoint. They immediately scrambled to remove the tape and put it under the seat of the car. The Taliban have banned all forms of music, and to being caught with the tape could have been fatal.
One of the Taliban guards stuck his head inside the car and happened to see the tape sticking out from under the seat. He demanded that the remove the tape put in the player for him to hear. (It could have been readings from the Koran, which would have been ok.) On hearing the tape the guard said, “It is ok, you can move along. That isn’t music.”