When I first came to Lebanon I was four years old. I am from Sahnaya in Syria, and I now live in Zahle. I attend the Maksa public secondary school. We knew about the Action for Hope’s music program, after my father learned about the organization through Facebook. He wanted to work there as a music teacher, but I was the one to join Action for Hope at the end.
I was at the age of 10 when I got accepted. My father wanted to run this prank on me. He came home and said to me, “Unfortunately, you weren’t accepted.” I was very sad then. I told him that I wanted to be part of the school, but he didn’t respond. He then went to bed and forgot to tell me he was teasing me. When he got up, I asked him if I could apply again. He realized that he forgot to tell me he was joking. When I knew I was accepted, I could not believe it. I started jumping and dancing from joy.
I felt the lessons were difficult when we first started. As we received, aside from practical classes, lessons about the theories and history of music which was a bit difficult. Additionally, as you can imagine, you are a little shy at the beginning before you feel more comfortable, start making friends and get closer to the teachers. With time, things got easier. At first, they teach you all the instruments, and then you are required to choose one as your major. I chose the saxophone. After graduation, the graduates formed four different ensembles – Sharq, Mada, Jawab and Zhourat, in addition to a fifth group called Awj that is still in training. I play with both Sharq and Jawab.
The went on to perform in several Lebanese areas. We played in major venues in Beirut, such as Metro al Madina, Zoukak, and the Sunflower Theatre. The concerts in Beirut were especially wonderful. When I see the audience engaging and applauding us, I feel happy in a way that is indescribable, which is reflected in my performance. Sometimes my parents’ friends ask me to play my saxophone at their parties. When I do that, I hear them exclaiming “Praised be!” in admiration.
It has been a year since I graduated from the music school, but I visit it every week. Sometimes I wish I could go back to the first year and go through the whole program all over again. We spent a lot of time at the center. In my school of Maksa, I play for my friends and teachers. Almost three months ago, I brought some of my friends to our house and trained them, and we were able to play at a concert on Mother’s Day. The teachers at the school were pleasantly surprised by the concert we organized as students. I took what I learned from Action for Hope to the school of Maksa and impart it on my classmates. Some of them played on the derbake, the tambourine, or the drum. After studying, I was able to play oud, saxophone, accordion, and different percussion instruments such as the tambourine and derbake, and to a lesser extent the buquq. The one I love the most, however, is the saxophone, probably because my dad always loved learning it, and because I’ve always listened to it on YouTube. I communicate with a professional saxophone player via WhatsApp and I learn through video. My father and I practice all the time.
In recent months, we were supposed to go to Norway and play with a Norwegian band. I was so sad because I could not travel – we did not get the visas.
Two days ago, my father took part in a sound engineering workshop. I went with him and learned some of the techniques he learned. My father also participated in the theater workshop organized by Action for Hope with the director Osama Hallal, and I in turn joined. My mom previously enrolled in a theatre workshop.I can safely say that the Safsafi family takes part in the Action for Hope programs, except maybe for my sister who is still too young to join the music school. And yet, she is very eager to join next year.
Activity: Music – Saxophon
Story collected and compiled by: Mona Merhi
Date and place: 19 May 2019 Action for Hope School – Bar Elias