A Conversation with a Young Palestinian Music Student

February 15, 2009 ANERA
Education, Music and the Arts, West Bank
Haneine studies oboe at Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, West Bank Haneine studies oboe at Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, West Bank

Like many students at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM), Haneine comes early for her oboe class. She is one of over 500 students who attend classes at the Conservatory, a teaching institution that ANERA has supported since 1999.

Fifteen year old Haneine is a typical teenager, laughing and giggling with the other girls before going in for her lesson. She was introduced by the Conservatory’s public relations officer as “a wonderful student who is polite, smart, and mature. She has a good future in front of her.” After meeting Haneine, I had to agree.

“Music is in my blood, it is part of me.”

Haneine originally started at ESNCM four years ago when she began taking piano lessons. Two years later, she joined the choir. Last year she started taking oboe lessons. This past summer, Haneine traveled to Jerash as part of the choir for a performance of the musical “Fawanees” (The Little Lantern), a children’s musical composed by Suhail Khoury, the General Director of ESNCM. A cast of 60 boys and girls aged 9 – 15 was selected by audition out of 500 candidates from the schools of Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem. Seven training camps with a total of more than 350 hours of training in singing, acting and dancing went into the production. A team of professional artists, Palestinian and German, French and Swedish, made the musical come to life.

“The orchestra is like a team. It is much more beautiful to play in an orchestra than solo.”

Not content to learn two instruments – the oboe and piano – and sing in the choir, Haneine joined the orchestra a year ago. She says she enjoys it because she has to “move with the conductor, and understand what she is doing.”

She tells me that she attends orchestra ‘workshops,’ not ‘practice.’ These workshops are part of the Conservatory’s project to launch the Palestine Youth Orchestra, the first and only professional orchestra in Palestine. The orchestra project was launched in 2003 with the support of Edward Said and Maestro Daniel Barenboim. Its members will include music students from the Conservatory and the worldwide Palestinian diaspora. The orchestra’s inaugural concert will be held in Jerusalem in 2010.

“Many days it takes me two hours to reach school.”

A typical day for Haneine starts at 6:00 am, when she wakes up to get ready for school. To get to Rosary High School, she must cross the Kalandia Military Checkpoint near Ramallah. It sometimes takes 15 minutes to cross the checkpoint. Other times it can take two hours. She has difficulty deciding what time she should leave home in order to get to school on time. If she gets to school too early, she must wait in the car. Other times she gets to school well past the start of her second period class. In spite of these challenges, Haneine manages to maintain an ‘A’ average, and keep up with her music and hobbies.

“The oboe is my hobby, so I enjoy practicing. Whenever I am worried or stressed, I go to the piano or to the oboe.”

After school, Haneine takes music lessons at ESNCM. She also practices her oboe an hour each day at home. Her friends sometimes complain that her music takes her away from them. She thinks they do not understand how much it means to her to play. She tries not to let it bother her. It helps that her best friend plays the piano.

“It bothers my brother…”

Haneine’s family always has encouraged her musical talent, which she exhibited at an early age. Her sister also attends the Conservatory and plays the cello. Haneine said with a giggle, “Sometimes it bothers my brother to hear us practicing all the time in the house.” Not surprising, considering that her brother is a swimmer with absolutely no musical aspirations.

“I am a normal girl who likes to read emotional, romantic stories. I am quiet, but very stubborn.”

Haneine’s favorite musician is Chopin. Her other hobbies include reading English and Arabic novels, writing, and storytelling. One of her favorite authors is the poet Gibran Khalil Gibran.

Leave a Reply