Music Unites will be hosting an event for Russian-Armenian violinist virtuoso Mikhail Simonyan and musicians from the New York Philharmonic on June 14 at City Winery to benefit the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) in Kabul, as part of Mikhail's Beethoven Not Bullets initiative.
"We wanted to help raise awareness and money for Mikhail's program since it is in line with our mission to get behind artists and the individual causes that they are passionate about and this is a very important and serious issue in Afghanistan," says Michelle Edgar, founder and executive director of Music Unites. "As a charity, we support and educate the next generation of musicians and provide them with an opportunity to experience and express themselves through music despite ethnicity or background. We are excited to welcome Mikhail to our Music Unites family and look forward to helping raise funds for his program."
Beethoven Not Bullets, raises funds to sponsor students at ANIM, the war-torn country's only music school. Being raised in a post-revolution country himself, Mikhail saw the needs of young musicians in a place that is re-building itself, along with the importance of music in restoring the cultural voice of a country. "I, too, was born at the wrong time when a regime that had dominated my country for 70 years collapsed almost overnight, bringing down with it the entire infrastructure that had supported and nurtured young musicians," he says. "My brother fought in Chechnya, so I also know the devastating effect of war on young people. Music has healing powers."
The college is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan and Monash University, Australia. Mikhail's first priority is to sponsor 50 of the school's music students for one year, at a cost of $360 per student, which covers tuition and a stipend to support the students' families.
"The key to the success of a country in rebuilding itself is the new generation and educating this generation. The students are learning cultural identity through being taught all kinds of music," states Mikhail, who is currently very into the music of Bob Dylan. "They don't just learn one type of music like classical, but also their own Afghanistan music which goes much deeper for them."
Music Unites Classical Music Showcase Series has included such musicians as Lang Lang, Joshua Bell and Charlie Siem. The series, dedicated to celebrating, supporting and promoting classical music in a modern setting to appeal to a broader audience.
"I was happy to work with Music Unites. What they are doing is incredible in encouraging people to engage with all types of music and setting up their own youth choir. It is amazing that they have brought together and helped kids from five boroughs," says Mikhail.
To purchase tickets to the upcoming event, please visit http://musicunites.org/events. All proceeds raised will be given to Beethoven Not Bullets. Mikhail and members of the New York Philharmonic will be performing music written by legendary violin virtuoso and composer Nathan Milstein, the notoriously difficult Passacaglia for violin and viola on a theme by Handel by Johan Halvorsen, and Schumann's gorgeous Piano Quartet. Mikhail will also be making his debut June 29 and 30 with the New York Philharmonic.
By Mara Siegler