The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Bethlehem has established a new music program for children with special needs, specifically the blind.
The conservatory chose fifteen children from across the West Bank to be part of the musical initiative that teaches children how to sing and play a number of instruments.
“This program was specifically created for blind people who have modest musical abilities. We try to develop their musical abilities and [by doing so] to improve their social circumstances. At the same time, we will be choosing a selection of students from this group to pursue music in the future,” said Jalil Elias, Director of the Edward Said Conservatory.
The three-year program currently runs general group singing and music classes to ease the children into the different classroom environments.
But piano-teacher, Hala Jabir, explained that eventually the program will expand and children will be divided up according to their musical interests and abilities.
“It is possible that in the future - say, in one to two years - we will have a lot of nice music groups, like a choir and an orchestra, or maybe even something greater than we expected,” said Jabir.
While the program now only teaches children how to play the piano and the Tabla, it will eventually cover a range of musical instruments including, the Oud, the Qanoon and the flute.
With all 15 children coming from the Israeli-occupied West Bank territories the program’s teachers hope these music classes will offer a chance for the children to escape their often volatile socio-political environment as well as over-coming the limitations of their disability.
Wassim Kasses is one of teachers taking part in the initiative and he says the children are ‘motivated’ to play in the lessons.
“They are active [children]. I am happy with [the children] and I really like working with the differing needs [of the children]. In the special cases I find that [the children] are even more motivated to play music.”
At the moment, the children attend classes once a week and the entire program is free.
“Our center has a specific vision for teaching music to disabled children in Palestine because we really feel that these disabled children deserve special status,” said Elias.
The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music was set up in 1993 after five Palestinian musicians and music teachers carried out a study on the status of music in Palestine in 1990 and found a huge lack of musical education in Palestinian society.
Edward Said is best known as a leading Palestinian-American intellectual and scholar, but he was also known to be an excellent piano player of near-professional ability.
Edward Said had been an honorary member of the National Conservatory of Music which was renamed in 2004 as a tribute to him following his death from cancer in 2003.