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Faith Inspires: The Polyphony Youth Orchestra

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The Polyphony Youth Orchestra with conductor Felix Krieger at Saint Vincent Ferrer Church in New York City in October 2011. Photo credit Annie Watt.
The Polyphony Youth Orchestra with conductor Felix Krieger at Saint Vincent Ferrer Church in New York City in October 2011. Photo credit Annie Watt.

When Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar decided to open a school for classical music in Nazareth, he knew he had to find good teachers. So he went to Tel Aviv, where the best musicians lived -- most of them Jewish Israelis.

Now, six years later, aspiring young musicians from Tel Aviv and throughout Israel travel to Nazareth to learn with the best. At Abboud-Ashkar's school, 120 young Jews, Christians and Muslims forget their differences through the power of music.

"It has the power to change people and to open their hearts," Abboud-Ashkar said.

For creating a positive space of borderless collaboration and societal change, this week's Faith Inspires highlights the Polyphony Youth Orchestra, which grew out of Abboud-Ashkar's conservatory and is currently touring the United States.

Violinists Feras Machour, 16, and Yamen Saadi, 15, who performed with the orchestra last night (June 29) at Congregation Beth Elohim of Park Slope, Brooklyn, are themselves evidence of change. They each recently won first prize in the Paul Ben Haim Music Competition -- the first Arabs to win the award.

But the best part about touring and playing classical music? It's not the awards or acclaim.

"It's actually the fun of playing music," Machour said. "If you're playing together, you make fun together."

Polyphony's director Abboud-Ashkar agrees, and said this is the most rewarding part of his work with Jewish and Arab youth: “To see when young kids from Tel Aviv and Nazareth meet and they rehearse very hard and they perform wonderful beautiful music and the minute they stop rehearsing they go outside and they enjoy being together -- then I see that the vision has become reality.”

HuffPost Religion applauds the good works of Polyphony Youth Orchestra. You can follow them on Twitter and Facebook. Visit their website for information about upcoming concerts, and view a slideshow of their recent performances below.

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Now, we want to hear from you! Who's making a positive impact in your community? Let us know by sending an e-mail to religion@huffingtonpost.com or tweeting to @huffpostrelig with the hashtag #faithinspires.

Filed by Josh Fleet