Violinist in Kabul

William Harvey in Afghanistan

Earlier this season, we featured From the Top alum William Harvey as the first profile in our 10th Anniversary Alumni Spotlight Series. In the fall, William told us he had accepted a position as a music teacher at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music and he would be moving to Kabul this spring. William has now been in Afghanistan for a few weeks and is reflecting about his experience on

An excerpt from his post entitled “The Day Before Afghanistan (3.20.10)” below:

I go to Afghanistan as an American man playing Western music and teaching Afghan girls and boys. Just like the suit I chose not to wear today, my culture’s music is what other cultures end up importing, even when they have a choice. I come to Kabul at the invitation of the Afghan government, just as non-European governments have eagerly supported the founding of symphony orchestras while their young people listen to Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson. My intention to publicly learn from and perform with experts in traditional Afghan music becomes vital in this context, so much so that one might wonder why I agreed to teach Western music in Kabul, given my awareness of the way such an act may be perceived.

Yet I cling tenaciously to my middle path. I respect all cultures, but see no insult in preferring my own. I love many kinds of music, but remain proud to belong to the tradition of Bach and Beethoven. I understand the tragic consequences of America’s military and corporate imperialism, but I am a patriotic American who loves my country in spite of its flaws. I respect many paths towards peace, but remain convinced that music most easily reminds us of our common humanity. I see no problem in Americans learning Afghan music in Kabul while teaching Western music, just as there should be no problem in Afghans coming to New York to do the reverse.

We wish William well and hope you’ll follow his adventures on his blog.