Al Jazeera — After fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries, a number of musicians have come together to set up an orchestra in New York. The Refugee Orchestra Project includes refugees from Syria to Russia who hope to communicate their experience through music, raise funds for those in need, and highlight the importance that refugees play in American culture and society.
Lubana al-Quntar is the first Syrian opera singer to obtain international recognition.”Seeing the struggle of my people every day, it means so much to me to sing for them,” said Quntar. The orchestra also performs works by composers who were refugees. A recent concert was held on World Refugee Day in Brooklyn.
“We are a country of immigrants,” says Lidiya Yankovskaya, the artist director and conductor of the orchestra. Yankovskaya, who fled Russia when she was a child to seek asylum in the United States, points out that “almost everybody here came from somewhere and came to escape persecution of one sort or another”.
She came up with the idea of the orchestra following the Syrian refugee crisis. “I was hoping that this project would showcase the importance that refugees continue to play in our culture and society while also raising funds for those in need,” Yankovskaya said.
There are a total of 65.3 million refugees – the largest in history – at the end of 2015, according to the UN Refugee Agency. On average, 24 people were forced to flee their homes every minute.