Saudi Aramco World September/October 2014 - page 8

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Saudi Aramco World
“I love to see the children having an opportunity to
experience another culture, especially knowing that a lot of
them don’t even have a chance to leave their side of town
in Detroit,” comments Mitchell, whose own degree is in the
performing arts. “To see them learn a different language and
learn about different
music instruments is
awesome.”
She notes that even
in diverse Detroit,
most of her students
had never met anyone
of Arab heritage.
She chuckles when
recalling that one of
the first questions the
kids asked Ibrahim was whether or not he ate at Burger King,
and their surprise when he replied that yes, he did.
Starting in October with 20 students from fourth to eighth
grade, selected from among Woodward’s student body of 700,
the program met weekly in classes taught by Ibrahim using a
curriculum designed by
nao
double bassist Maggie Hasspacher.
It was difficult at first, says Mitchell, who also assisted in the
classes and supervised an additional weekly practice. “The
students weren’t enthusiastic about singing in a language that
they didn’t understand, or being exposed to a culture they
weren’t used to,” she says. Some of the parents, too, were
anxious, uncertain
about the value of
the program.
According to
Hasspacher, Ibrahim,
too, needed time to
adjust. “He had never
taught in an inner-
city school, and he
had no clue what he
was getting into,” she
notes with a laugh, adding that he had never taught children
before. Ibrahim agrees. “They didn’t know how to sing, let
alone speak another language, let alone know anyone outside
their own circle,” he says. In January, Hasspacher began to lend
support by co-teaching, and she and Ibrahim put together a
curriculum that integrated Arab and western music for a two-
Starting in October, 20 Woodward Academy students, from fourth to eighth grade, received weekly instruction and practice from both
nao
double bassist Maggie Hasspacher,
top left,
and Ibrahim.
Clockwise from top left:
In early May, with their performance weeks away, Hasspacher
writes out an afternoon’s agenda; Ibrahim accompanies rehearsal of the Arabic ballad “Zuruni”; Khalil Cross picks up an end-of-class high-five
from Ibrahim; Woodward’s director of after-school programs, Marsae Mitchell, helps lead dance practice for “Happy.”
THE STUDENTS IN BUILDING BRIDGES THROUGH
MUSIC AT FIRST THOUGHT ARABIC WAS “WEIRD
BECAUSE IT WAS A DIFFERENT CULTURE AND
SOMETHING THEY HADN’T EXPERIENCED BEFORE,”
SAYS IBRAHIM. “ONCE THEY PERFORMED IN THE
CONCERT, ALL OF THEM WANTED TO DO IT AGAIN.”
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