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Five Iraqi Orchestras Unite for U.S. Embassy-Sponsored National Unity Performing and Visual Arts Academy

U.S. Embassy Baghdad
Classical, Jazz, Theater, Contemporary Dance
U.S. Cultural Diplomacy Brings Iraqis Educational Curriculum 
July 14-23, 2007

The U.S. Embassy, in conjunction with not-for-profit organization American Voices and the Kurdish Regional Government Ministry of Culture united five Iraqi Orchestras on one stage this July, as part of The National Unity Performing and Visual Arts Academy . The Academy -- the first project of its kind in Iraq – provided a cross cultural educational experience to nearly 300 of the country's aspiring performers.

A team of ten renowned American music, dance and theater instructors visited Northern Iraq , creating a ten day training camp for young Iraqi artists. In addition to providing free training, the academy united all of Iraq 's four orchestras, as well as a newly formed Youth Orchestra, on one stage for a performance at the culmination of the program.

“It is indeed an historic moment for all of Iraq 's orchestras to be united, in harmony, on one stage,” said U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker. “It is wonderful to see the fusion of American and Iraqi cultural heritage and talent.”

Through the academy, arts educators provided detailed instruction in Jazz, Classical, Chamber music and more. Dance studies included Ballet, Jazz and contemporary dance, while Theater sessions incorporated selections from “Grease” and “The Wizard of Oz.”

“This demonstrates the progress that can be achieved when Iraqis of various backgrounds come together for a common purpose” said Pat Butenis, Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Baghdad, at the opening of the National Unity Concert.

The National Unity Performing and Visual Arts Academy is a follow-up to a joint U.S. Embassy-American Voices program in February 2007 at Baghdad 's Al Rasheed hotel, which featured an American song and dance ensemble and the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, performing for an Iraqi audience, as well as Under Secretary of State Karen Hughes.

During a walkthrough of the academy, Minister of Culture for the Kurdish Regional Government Falakadin Kakaye, praised the program, saying “Art means life to us. I am sure that through music and culture in general, we can solve the problems of Iraq . We can do this through tolerance and peacefully living together.”

In addition to the U.S. Embassy and American Voices, the National Unity Performing and Visual Arts Academy received support from the Ministry of Culture of the Kurdish Regional Government, the Baghdad School of Music and Dance, The Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, The Symphony Orchestras of Erbil and Suleimanya, National Folk Dancers of Iraq and the Institutes of Fine Arts in Erbil , Suleimanya and Dohuk.


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