Over 50 young and talented musicians, aged from five to sixteen, shone on the stage of Bibliotheca Alexandrina on Saturday 17 February as they performed Arabic oriental tunes along with some western classics.
The Tchaikovsky Winter Concert was one of seven concerts organized and moderated by a private musical school in Alexandria, the Tchaikovsky School of Performing Arts.
Though the school is the first of its kind on the coastal city's cultural scene, it has quickly become a hub for many young musicians.
Launched in 2015 with just two students, it now has more than a hundred with a passion for learning music and playing on a variety of instruments.
According to the school's description on social media, the Tchaikovsky School of Performing Arts (TSPA) "comprises a board of directors composed of the most talented and experienced musicians and music instructors in Alexandria engaged in providing a high quality of music and performance arts education."
The main objective stated by the TSPA is "the advancement of a fine music and performance arts culture in the Egyptian society."
The TSPA is accredited by the International Music Examinations Board (formerly known as Australian International Conservatorium of Music), a fully government registered degree-granting institution.
"At the end of each semester, we organize a concert to showcase our young musicians and their talents," said Adham Molokhia, the school's founder and manager.
In his late twenties, Molokhia is a full-time lawyer with a passion for music stretching back to the age of five, and a man who understands the importance of music in our lives. He holds on to the belief that music not only shapes the identity, but also helps in developing any personality.
Driven by love of both Arabic musical heritage and western classics, Molokhia had a dream of fusing those two genres. This prompted him to establish the Tchaikovsky School, where he tries to help young musicians adhere to their identities and to preserve the Arabic musical heritage.
"My main aim is to help young generations to get connected with their musical heritage and to create a new and fresh cultural scene in Alexandria, the birthplace of Sayed Darwish and many influential musicians, all of whom were young musicians who rose up and became highly professional," Molokhia told Ahram Online.
Ziad Amin, 7, was one of the youngest musicians on stage. For his third on-stage appearance, he performed Make a Way For the King on the piano.
"I play both the violin and the piano, but I love the piano the most," Amin told Ahram Online.
"Amin developed very fast since his first concert. Piano helped him greatly, even in his studies. He has become better in maths, as he has improved a lot in numbers and in counting," Ziad’s mother Raghda Sheshaa said.
Private or independent music schools are rare in Egypt and those few are mainly based in Cairo.
"Egypt has many independent bands and there is no reason whatsoever why there should not be more independent music schools in each governorate in Egypt," Molokhia added.
Rasha Meseilhy, a mother of the young musician Rahma, said, "I had no problem in putting Rahma into a private music school once it was established. We live next door, so I find this is a great advantage for both of us."
"Rahma feels she has her own activity and her own special thing, which is music. This gives her much confidence and much joy," Meseilhy continued.
Teenage siblings, Mai and Mariam Hamdy, who completed their first year at the Tchaikovsky school, play the piano and violin.
"As teens, we always try to figure out the notes of the songs we love to listen to. Actually, what we like about the school is that we feel we are one family. The communication between the students and the teachers is great. We can reach out to them whenever we want and they help us in every possible way, helping us love the music and the instrument more and more," Mariam Hamdy said.
Marwan Amr only enrolled at the school in September. He practices violin daily and is now capable of showcasing his achievements on the stage.
"Marwan takes it so seriously and he has made all the family very proud of him," his mother Rasha Magdy explains.
"Marwan is the one who chose violin. I think he was inspired by other musicians. We used to take our children to concerts since they were very young and I think this is why they are attached to music and want to learn it. Once your elder kid plays, your younger gets inspired to join in. My younger son Ahmed is only five years old and he chose to play piano.”
Magdy also points to the fact that, apart from the Tchaikovsky School of Performing Arts, there is only one such institution certified in Alexandria that she is aware of.
"Unlike other places, Tchaikovsky School has flexible hours, which is compatible with my son's studies. Moreover, they allowed my son to perform in a concert at such an early stage. Kids at this age need some recognition and need to play in front of an audience so that they can be more encouraged and their confidence is boosted," she said.
"Now it's time to create a musical ensemble at home," she chuckled.
Apart of the obvious benefits for the young students, the inclusion of private schools in the cultural scene is helpful to some older musicians as well. Among them is Mohsen Abou El-Ala, an Egyptian violinist with over 40 years of performing in Egypt and internationally.
"Once musicians retire, they cannot play anymore in concerts and their lives become empty after all the years of relentless work, trainings and concerts," said Aboul El-Ala. "Most of us are keen to pass on the knowledge and the experience we have to younger generations. This is what I enjoy at Tchaikovsky School."
"We were really amazed by those Alexandrian families who never doubted our curriculum and entrusted their kids to us," Abou El-Ala added.
Tamer Abdel Fattah, an experienced music teacher is overjoyed to see his own children play Arabic music.
"I am over the moon. In the school, I teach them songs of Oum Kalthoum, Abdel Wahab, Mohamed Fawzy, Sayed Makawy, Fairouz, and they see how sophisticated and how different they were from the western. Yet, each has its own beauty and its own impressive beats," he said.
The big seasonal concerts that the school organizes can be both a financial and an administrative burden to any manager. However, Molokhia, his brother Marwan, and all the teachers, are encouraged by music and the effort that the young musicians exert.
A young student named Hadil stresses the loving environment that dominates the school, encouraging the pupils to explore music and learn instruments.
"What makes a child choose to learn notes, memorize theories, and eager to learn an instrument depends solely on the teacher, who can either make him/her hate or love music," Hadil’s mother said.
Teaching music is one of the core missions of the school. However, as Molokhia underlines, it is through playing that the music heritage can be passed on to future generations.
"Private music schools can help in enhancing the cultural scene in Egypt. We need more of them across all governorates, as they would certainly pave the way for a new generation to bring their own voice to the existing musical wealth," he concludes.
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