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Good News from Iran: Shoosh Children's Music Ensemble

July 27, 2018
Shima Shahrabi
4 min read
The Shoosh Children's Music Ensemble celebrates its fifth birthday
The Shoosh Children's Music Ensemble celebrates its fifth birthday
It took a long time to provide the students at Shoosh Children’s House with just a few musical instruments
It took a long time to provide the students at Shoosh Children’s House with just a few musical instruments
The fifth birthday party for the Shoosh Children's Music Project
The fifth birthday party for the Shoosh Children's Music Project
The recorder is the first "official" musical instrument the children had access to. Small xylophones were to follow
The recorder is the first "official" musical instrument the children had access to. Small xylophones were to follow
The first instruments brought in for teaching were the recorder and xylophones
The first instruments brought in for teaching were the recorder and xylophones

When the founders of the Shoosh Children's House music project first began teaching, they probably did not expect the project to last five years. It would have been difficult to believe that child laborers and street children who had found a haven in the house could set up an orchestra and perform concerts for audiences. But now they are celebrating the project’s fifth birthday, proud instructors cutting a specially-made cake while standing next to the children who now love and know how to read and play music, filling the classroom with song and laughter.

Shoosh Children’s House is part of the Society for Protecting the Rights of the Child, a non-profit, non-governmental organization. It was founded in 2000 to help child laborers in Tehran’s Darvazeh Ghar, one of the most underprivileged and dangerous neighborhoods in the Iranian capital.

Behtosh Davarpanah, the supervisor of Naardoon Children's Choir and Bahareh Ameri, a music teacher, launched the music project in 2013. Davarpanah started collaborating with the Shoosh Children’s House a year before he started the music classes, but it was difficult for him to make much headway. “One hour a week we had a class and we tried to put into practice what we had learned about teaching music to the children,” he wrote in a blog. “It was very difficult because we had none of the regular tools for children's music classes or, for that matter, even for adult music classes. I lost hope after a few weeks of singing, rhythmic movement and some body percussion.”

Lego Pieces as Musical Instruments

“Then we decided to use what tools we did have in a creative way,” he says. “We put some big pieces of Lego that we found in the storeroom in front of the children and beat on them with other toys. Then we used our percussion instruments to teach rhythm. Then we started to make musical instruments from empty soft drink and mineral water bottles. We made them into shakers by putting rice and beans in them. Sometimes Arghavan Montazeri [his classmate at the university] would come and play flute.”

Then, in mid-summer 2013, Shoosh Children’s House was awarded a small grant to support its music project. Behtosh Davarpanah says they did not quite have enough to buy a xylophone, so they bought a recorder. “The children got the recorder and we started playing. Everything was as it had been, plus a recorder and a few small percussion instruments were added to the mix. A friend, Jamshad Khakpour, bought us books. Mr. Hessam Jafari, a setar player and a friend from university, provided us with the rest of what we needed.”

Before autumn arrived, the children had learned to play three notes on the recorder. It was the Shoosh Children’s House project’s first achievement. Then, to mark International Children’s Day in November, they performed a concert on the lawn of Tehran’s Harandi Stadium, using the three notes the children had learned. The families of some of the children made up the audience, and the Shoosh Children’s House instructors and volunteers cheered them on.

More Concerts Followed

This was the children’s first official concert, but it was just the beginning. The group performed five concerts that year. The next year, they participated in the Halfback Festival, an event that raises funds to supply footballs and football training for child laborers. At the concert, the children performed a special piece that their teacher had written for them at Tehran’s Azadi sports complex. During their third year, the project was able to acquire a xylophone for the children, along with a metallophone and other musical instruments. At that point, the classes became more like conventional music classes.

In the fourth year, the instructors began teaching classes for specific instruments. The teachers were mostly graduates of the Music School at Tehran’s Arts College. And in the fifth year, in addition to their classes, the children got the opportunity to attend big concerts performed by the Tehran Symphony Orchestra and the Academic Orchestra of Tehran. One of the Tehran Symphony Orchestra concerts was a special concert for children and young adults conducted by Shahram Rouhani. After the concert, the Shoosh children went backstage and posed for photographs with the conductor.

In its latest post on Instagram, the Shoosh Children's Ensemble proudly displays a photo of its fifth birthday party. Now that the children have blown out the five candles on their birthday cake, they are ready for the future: a sixth year and many more concerts. Today they have new instruments and perform to a very professional level.

Throughout the last five years they have attended their classes regardless of the weather, sometimes practicing in extreme heat or cold. Even in the heat of the summer when their air conditioners stopped working, they carried on. Freeing themselves from the airless classroom, they took their instruments, found a corner in the nearby Harandi Park and let the wind carry the sound of their music.

comments

sam1989
August 18, 2018

Excellent article! Sounds like a fun musical group!

Images

Don Soleimani and Sancho Rouhani

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Touka Neyestani
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