A teacher’s letter from Tunisia

What does Cultures in Harmony mean to the people who experience our work directly? Patrick Sutton, the guitar teacher for our Tunisia project this year, sent me this letter about his experience:
Hey William!
I just wanted to thank you again for sending me to Tunisia for the festival. Cultures in Harmony and your personal generosity of spirit and effort has made a profound impact on my life. Teaching and collaborating in developing countries has become something that I am deeply passionate about and it has made me a richer person in countless ways.
The festival in Beni M’tir was absolutely spectacular. I was astonished by the kids in every way. The level was much higher then I had expected and I got to do serious, productive work with all of my students. Not only were most of them fine, budding young classical musicians, but basically all of them were writing their own pop songs too. Everyone played and loved everyone else’s songs and the spirit of pure, joyful music-making was fantastic. I must say that I think it even reawakened in me the kind of capricious, free-spirited playing that I had forgotten about for far too long. In addition to teaching the guitar students, I also led the jazz ensemble and I was amazed by how eager they all were to dive in and learn a brand new style of music.
Louay gives his performance
Working with Louay, who you might remember is blind, was a deeply moving experience. I got him ready for what I believe were his first solo guitar performances ever, and despite being incredibly nervous, he was spectacular in both concerts. I was moved to tears. It was also amazing to watch all of the other students take care of Louay, every minute. Hanging out with him, jamming with him, taking him wherever he needed to go: it was so beautiful to watch. How many young people are that empathetic and caring?
Before I left Tunis, I was talking to one of the young women from the festival named Nour and she was saying how much she is already looking forward to next year’s festival, how sad she was that this one was already over. “It’s the best ten days of the year, every year,” she said. “We all feel that way.” I told her that since most of the students live in Tunis, that she should continue getting together with everyone and keep the music making going year round. She said, “We do, but the difference is that you’re not here…” referring to the faculty. It’s obvious that it’s not just the teaching that they love so much but rather getting to interact with caring adults from another culture. This festival is a powerful and wonderful force in all of these kids lives. I hope that you are very proud of this, William.
Did you ever see that fantastic German film, “The Lives of Others”? There is a scene where the main character receives a Beethoven piano sonata score as a gift from his friend. After playing a few notes, he turns to his wife and says, “How could anyone who has ever really heard this music be a bad person?” To me, that is the mission. Teaching people to appreciate beauty is a profoundly transformative experience. It doesn’t stop when the lesson ends, but continues with conversations over coffee or late night jam sessions or words of encouragement peppered throughout the day. To borrow an idea from Thoreau, it’s not just about teaching people to be good, but to be good for something. For the sake of beauty, in all its forms. Thanks so much for giving me yet another opportunity to do this kind of work, William.
I’ll never forget this experience.

With Gratitude,


Make sure Cultures in Harmony can continue to do this kind of work, in Tunisia and elsewhere, by donating today.

Faculty and students at the final concert in 2018. Patrick Sutton is in the front row on the far right.


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