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UD's Harvey Price is using the steel drum to help bring together Jewish and Arab schoolchildren in Israel.
Turmoil has long existed in the Middle
East. Now, one University of Delaware faculty member is doing his part
to help bring about peace as part of an intrepid music project.
Harvey Price, associate professor of music, is using his connections
and knowledge to form a steel drum band in Israel comprising both Jewish
and Arab children. Jews and Arabs in the region have long distrusted
each other, and Israel, a Jewish nation surrounded by wary Arab
countries, has undergone strife since its inception in 1948.
Price first became interested in using music to help bridge gaps
between people of different religions back in 2003. The U.S. State
Department was seeking methods of connecting people of different
backgrounds through art and was especially hoping to apply these
techniques in Muslim nations in the Middle East. Price believed teaching
children of different upbringings how to play the steel drum could help
As he had previously been to Israel and had friends and family in
that nation, Price planned to work with children of various backgrounds
there. He selected the steel drum because it is, in his words, a
"value-neutral" instrument, one that originated in the Caribbean and
thus has no ties to Jews, Muslims, or Christians. However, the grant
proposal was rejected.
Price then began putting a similar band idea in action, this time with Ethiopian immigrants to Israel.
"There's a large Ethiopian community in Israel," Price said. "They
are refugees and they have a lot of social issues coming from there."
In 2011, friends in Wilmington with the group Delaware Churches for
Middle East Peace contacted Price, having heard about his 2003 steel
drum proposal. The group was interested and decided to sponsor the
Price originally hoped to have Palestinian and Israeli children work
together but discounted this idea due to the difficult nature of having
the children be required to cross the border between Palestine and
Israel on a daily basis. He then decided to work with Jews and Arab
Muslims and Christians in Israel.
"It is maybe one of the few regions in the Middle East that hopefully
we can solve some of the conflict that's inherent there," he said.
"It's a difficult conflict because it goes back such a long time, but I
think it's the most solvable conflict from the base point, because you
do have access. I probably wouldn't want to try this in Iraq. I wouldn't
feel safe on the ground there. But I feel like there's a free flow of
information in Israel and you can directly get to the people without
having to go through governments."
With a goal firmly in mind, Price and the organization set about
looking for Jewish and Arab partners with which to work. Delaware
Churches for Middle East Peace officials already knew of a potential
partner in the Galilee region in the north of Israel — a school where
Jews, Muslims and Christians are all educated together.
Administrators at the school were intrigued, and Price and company
soon found a nearby music conservatory of Jewish students. Because
neither side was knowledgeable about steel drums, Price traveled to
Israel in the summer of 2012, bringing with him videos of the
instrument. After that, the plan was a go.
The cost would be approximately $100,000, which would be used to
purchase and ship the instruments among other things. To date, about
half of that has been raised. Once the remaining $50,000 has been
scrounged up, the band will be complete, and more instruments can be
bought, allowing for more children in the band.
The band's 10 students, who are in junior high school, have been
selected, and though Price has not yet met them, he will be flying to
Israel on Oct. 20. Ten steel drums will come with him, flying over on
the airplane to Israel as luggage. From there, the drums will be
transported to the conservatory where Price will teach the students how
to play the steel drum while Arab and Jewish music teachers observe.
Once Price departs after a week, the music teachers will continue
schooling the children.
Eventually, Price and the other leaders hope to bring the children to
the United States to show them steel bands around Delaware. Traveling
brings children together, Price said, and he believes the experience of
having Arab and Jewish students working toward a common goal will help
bring out the similarities and show the children they are ultimately
Price said he has heard of similar projects that aim to bring people
of different backgrounds together and cited a circus in Israel where
Arab and Jewish children perform together.
He said he hopes this band can have a positive effect on not just the
children who will be involved, but also the adults in the region.
"Most people at the heart just want to live a life," he said. "They don't want to rule over other people."
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