The experience detailed in “The Letter” That Started It All challenged me to explore music’s ability to change society. I wasn’t sure what form that change would take, but I knew that after 9/11, all of us had to try harder than ever to reach out in peace.
In June 2004, during a trip to Turkey organized by the Bloomington Muslim Dialogue Group, I ate dinner at the home of an oud teacher. This was just before then-President Bush was to visit Istanbul, so anti-American feeling ran high. This gentleman did not seem thrilled to have a couple Americans in his home. I spied an old, beat-up violin in the corner of his living room, so asked if I could play it. I played some Bach, and then he got out his oud and played for me. Soon, we were reading through a book of Sufi songs, and at the end of the evening, everyone was smiling and hugging one another. If music could change the atmosphere in that room, what could it do in the world?
In December 2004, I met Dr. Everold Hosein, an employee of the World Health Organization. I told him about my dreams, so he helped arrange a concert tour of Moldova and Tunisia. In the summer of 2005, Cultures in Harmony (CiH) was born with the mission of promoting cultural understanding through music.
Since then, we have built on our success to launch over 20 projects in over a dozen countries. I invite you to check out our videos, particularly the 90-second promotional video and the documentaries about Pakistan and the Philippines, as well as the pictures from our projects. By doing so, you already show your interest in music’s power to bring us closer together. For this kindness, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!