Russian Musical Union organized a unique professional development course for music teachers from Syria

Nine teachers of the University of Music of Damascus from the Syrian capital flew to Moscow to take advanced training courses organized by Russian Musical Union with the support of the Presidential Grants Fund as part of the International Humanitarian Project “Music Education – Art Without Borders.”

It is amazing how in a country destroyed by many years of civil war, among the ruins, incessant terrorist attacks and shelling, inter-ethnic and religious intolerance, people are still very much interested not just in music, but in classical music. And it is impossible to ignore these expectations, which require great courage, and the passion for academic music, which the project participants are trying to develop, expand in a society that is still torn by opinions and strife. Undoubtedly, these teachers deserve not only respect, but also support. If only because, together with music, they bring peace, harmony, silence to every home, and with them – peace, which is given at too high a price. Among the arrived teachers there are those who did not stop their classes amid the shelling.

“Once a shell flew through the window and exploded in the classroom,” recalls teacher Victoria Avdeenko. After Victoria got married and moved to Syria, she has been teaching music in Damascus for 40 years. – Another time, during class, our young teacher was seriously injured.

Such stories are yesterday’s reality for participants in the advanced training program from the Syrian Arab Republic. Today, peace is slowly returning to Syria, and with it the desire to build a new life. The war shook the system of local musical education. Some teachers left the country, others could not teach due to circumstances. As a result, the level of education has fallen. The Ministry of Culture of the Syrian Arab Republic and the leadership of the University of Music in Damascus turned to Russia for help in that situation. Russian Musical Union responded to the appeal.

“Thanks to Russian Musical Union and the Grants Fund of the President of the Russian Federation, we have a unique opportunity to fill in the gaps in the musical and pedagogical direction of our work,” says Victoria.

– Russian Musical Union has a large pedagogical base, musical material, administrative resources, – the project initiator, Adviser to CEO at Russian Musical Union, composer Andrey Baturin tells the background of cooperation. – We have fulfilled everything that Syrian partners wished for in each declared area of ​​professional training. The team of Russian Musical Union showed itself at the highest level.

Every day of their stay in Moscow the participants of the courses got pleasant surprises. “Modern Professional Music Education: New Trends, Tasks, Prospects” was the name of a specially designed unique program of advanced training courses, which took place in the form of individual and group lessons, open master classes, concerts with the participation of Russian students and teachers. The State Musical and Pedagogical Institute named after M. M. Ippolitov-Ivanov, opened its doors to the students. In this Institute Syrian teachers got acquainted with new teaching methods, mastered the technique, mastered the skill depending on their specialization – in the classes of piano, violin, cello, double bass, clarinet, academic singing, music theory, concertmaster art. In total, more than 10 Russian teachers and over 200 Russian students took part in the program.

– “Excellent teachers Valery Iosifovich Vorona, Ruben Pavlovich Lisitsian, Irina Grigorievna Vershinina gave us classes…”, – shared her impressions a graduate of the University of Music in Damascus, a piano teacher at the children’s music school Bushra Kher Bek. – “We have gained invaluable teaching experience.”

Razan Kassar, a violin teacher, soloist of the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra, also says:

“In Russia, I learned that music has no end. It is in constant motion: always renews, lives with new ideas, new works are poured into new contemporary art. I studied this here for two weeks. Our mission is to transfer new knowledge to the next generation of children who study in Syria.”

To help teachers, in addition to the invested knowledge, acquired skills, and written notes, Russian Musical Union has issued 120 copies of teaching books in electronic and printed versions in 12 musical and pedagogical areas; 200 copies of music readers in 10 musical fields. Moreover, as project coordinator Olga Pashinina said, Russian Musical Union presented each of the nine Syrian teachers with an audio collection of four CD boxes with unique recordings of classical music, and the Institute named after M.M. Ippolitov-Ivanov donated 45 copies of musical and methodical literature. And Russian students who took part in the program have gained unique experience in the field of international teaching practice. The results of the training of Syrian teachers were summed up at the round table “Improving the international pedagogical experience in the system of modern music education.”

Along side the educational program, the students actively mastered the cultural places in the Russian capital. Guests from Syria visited the Russian National Museum of Music, the Moscow Conservatory, where they attended a concert on the occasion of its 155th anniversary, walked along Tverskaya, went to the Red Square and, of course, took a tour in the Kremlin.

“We got acquainted with Russian culture, with the rich heritage of Russia. Previously, we only saw this on the Internet. It’s amazing how the Music Museum carefully preserves all the instruments, belongings, property of the composers. They are all beautifully restored,” – a participant of the courses, a teacher, a young composer Amr Zahreddin shares his impressions. “Now in Syria there is a big demand for musicians and teachers. Our schools lack musical sources, materials, and manuals. Our teachers are mostly young. They have little experience. And teachers in Russia are known for their school and authority. Of course, what we were taught here will come in handy in Syria.”

The culmination of the two-week educational tour was a joint concert, where teachers from Damascus showed everything new that they had acquired in Moscow. Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Liszt, Mozart, Saint-Saens, Chopin, Schubert were performed on stage. Jules Shchagin performed Francis Poulenc’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano on the clarinet. Irina Sedova, laureate of international competitions, accompanist of the State Musical Pedagogical Institute named after M. M. Ippolitov-Ivanov, performed a piano part. Such an accompaniment is impossible to forget:

– She is great. Too bad we only had two rehearsals. There was no time left for the rest, – Jules sums up his speech. He is a clarinet teacher, an artist of the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra. – During the war and in the times in which we now live, I continue to study music, continue to perform it … It calms me. In many countries, the flowering of culture came after difficult times. I would like to believe that this will also be the case in Syria. We must continue to live there and continue our work…

As you know, a thought tends to materialize. And when at the airport you go for a boarding with a suitcase of scores, books, records of great musicians, which weighs 30 kilograms, it cannot be otherwise. If we multiply each teacher flying home by the number of his/her students, this knowledge will be enough not only for one hundred, but maybe a thousand young Syrians. It is gratifying that Russian Musical Union has invested the most important thing in this baggage – such a load is only for good.