Musical Solidarity In a War-torn Iraq


We all know how dire the situation is in Iraq. Every day new reports surface conveying the conditions there, and we—American citizens—wonder constantly: will it ever end? If Zuhan Sultan ever has her way, it will.

Pianist Zuhan Sultan, pictured above, who at age 17 founded the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq, is currently using her role as artistic director to be an ambassador for peace. She works unremittingly to raise awareness for the orchestra, Iraqi culture, and Iraqi children’s rights and education through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and The United Nations Children’s Fund.

This is the first youth orchestra in Iraq. It is the epitome of cultural cooperation. Sultan has brought together Arabs and Kurds — two groups who have historically not gotten along — and opened the doors to communication. She has said: “I wanted to unite young Iraqis from all over the country, who come from different ethnic and religious backgrounds and who have been separated from one another by the conflict. Through the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq, I want to encourage our young people to establish a dialogue with one another in music, to realize that we have it within ourselves to be strong and creative and, most importantly, to celebrate our identity as Iraqi musicians together.”

In a place where cultural differences have led the country to the brink of destruction what could be more important? Once again, music adds to its track record of bringing people together despite the obstacles.

Sultan will be giving a talk for the University of Rochester and Eastman community on Saturday, September 19, starting at 1 p.m. in the sanctuary at the Interfaith Chapel on the River Campus. She will also appear from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in Ciminelli Lounge., Eastman Student Living Center. Both of these events will be free; the Interfaith Chapel event is open to the public, but the Ciminelli Lounge event is for the Eastman community only. Both are sponsored by the Students’ Association for Interfaith Cooperation, the Eastman Departmental Diversity Initiative, and the Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center. If you want to find out more about Zuhan Sultan and the orchestra she founded please consult the link below:

-Andrew Psarris (BM ’15)