Saudi Aramco World September/October 2014 - page 7

September/October 2014
5
the same time “it’s also great to see that the
nao
is making
an intentional effort to step forward and declare cultural
exchange an explicit purpose.”
“When I first started this orchestra five years ago,
it was my goal from the beginning to have a full-time
professional orchestra and to also build a school for
Arabic music,” explains Ibrahim. “We don’t have that,
we need it and we can sustain it. If the Arab arts and our
culture are going to be saved,” he adds, “it will be done
here”—meaning in the
us
. “We need to preserve this music
and bring it alive again.” As an accomplished musician
himself, and with a rising reputation as an innovative
musical director, it’s been easy for Ibrahim to attract
skilled, diverse and passionate musicians; however, he
admits it was harder to hit the right notes when it came to
building and funding an educational program. “Musicians
are usually not good business people,” he confesses.
Enter Moose Scheib, a young 34-year-old Lebanese-
American entrepreneur based in nearby Dearborn. A
graduate of Columbia University Law School, Scheib
founded Mizna Entertainment, which in 2007 produced
the first Arab-American comedy shows in Michigan. Aged
seven when his family immigrated in the late 1980s, Scheib
didn’t listen to much classical Arab music until he sat down
at his first Michigan Arab Orchestra concert. Then, he says,
he fell in love with it.
“I like connecting people. I’m a bridge-builder by
nature,” emphasizes Scheib. “Music is an important way
to connect. If I’m going to work on something and put my
talents to use, I want it to be something I can pass on not
only to my daughter, but also to other kids and generations to
come,” he adds.
Leaving the music to Ibrahim, Scheib set about legally
incorporating the orchestra, expanding its board of directors
and finding it a home.
Given that Greater Detroit
has one of the largest
and most diverse Arab-
American communities in
the country, Scheib turned
for advice to Vince Paul,
president and artistic
director of the Detroit
Music Hall. But instead of
giving advice, Paul simply
invited the
nao
to become
his resident orchestra.
“I wanted this to be the
people’s theater,” says
Paul, who became Detroit
Music Hall director
in 2006. Given the
extraordinary diversity of
the city, he adds, “I wanted
people to think that of
course the Hall would have
a resident Arab orchestra.”
The orchestra’s educational
aspirations made it a natural fit with Paul’s own philosophy
as well as an ally in his desire to alleviate the scarcity of music
programs of any kind in Detroit’s public schools.
According to Scheib,
some 70 percent of Detroit’s
urban-core schools lack
music educators. “The fact
that kids can’t be exposed
to music in a city known as
the home of Motown is just
terrible!” he exclaims. “The
arts are an integral part of
being human and connecting
with others, especially
when you don’t speak their
language.“ Early last year,
Ibrahim, Scheib and
nao
board member James Cline
began to brainstorm about
starting an Arab music
after-school program, and
later in the year, based on a
proposal led by violinist van
Dusen, the
nao
received a
Knight Arts Challenge grant
for $100,000. “The Building
Bridges through Music
program is where we start,”
says Ibrahim. “It’s like laying that first cornerstone.”
When Woodward Academy’s after-school program director,
Marsae Mitchell, heard about Building Bridges through Music,
she was eager for her school to be its first host. Woodward, she
explains, is a “Title
i
” school, meaning that all of its students
come from families living at or below the official poverty level.
Funding for after-school programs is scarce to non-existent.
“I like connecting people. I’m a
bridge-builder by nature,” says
Moose Scheib, who led the
incorporation of the
nao
. “Music is
an important way to connect.”
“It’s great to see that the
nao
is making an intentional effort to declare cultural exchange an explicit purpose,”
says violinist and composer Roberto Riggio, who travels from Austin, Texas, to play with the
nao
.
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