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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

KSO and K-College invite community participation in Middle Eastern orchestra for new players

The Bahar Ensemble: Beau Bothwell, Ahmed Tofiq, Dede Alder, Carolyn Koebel and Liz Youker,
Bahar Ensemble
The Bahar Ensemble: Ahmed Tofiq, Liz Youker, Beau Bothwell, Dede Alder, Carolyn Koebel

The Bayati Ensemble was formed to offer students and community members the chance to perform in a Middle Eastern orchestra, much like the Kalamazoo Philharmonia does for classical players and the Academy Street Winds does for band players. The COVID-19 pandemic paused the endeavor for a few years, but Liz Youker, the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra Director of Education & Community Engagement, successfully applied for a Michigan Arts and Culture Council grant to bring it back to life.

Youker, percussionist Carolyn Koebel, and Bayati Ensemble co-director Beau Bothwell joined Cara Lieurance to talk about the Bayati Ensemble and two closely associated groups: the youth-oriented Orchestra Rouh and the Bahar Ensemble, a professional Middle Eastern quintet of local players. Youker explains that the Greater Kalamazoo region, where Arabic is the third most spoken language, is home to over 3,000 residents who were born in the greater Middle East. Initiatives in community music-making came in 2017 from just a few individuals, including Iraqi violinist Ahmed Tofiq, who co-founded the Bahar Ensemble and Orchestra Rouh during the Syrian refugee crisis. Carolyn Koebel got involved early on. She encourages people with no experience to give it a try, especially if they love improvisation.

Bothwell explains some of the principles with which the music is taught and understood, demonstrating on his oud, and invites interested listeners to get in touch. The first rehearsal is Tuesday, Jan 9 at the Light Fine Arts Building at Kalamazoo College. More information is available at this link.

Cara Lieurance is the local host of NPR's All Things Considered on 1021 WMUK and covers local arts & culture on Let's Hear It on 89.9 Classical WMUK weekday mornings at 10 - 11 am.
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