History - Polyphony
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“What Polyphony is doing is so needed—in Israel and in the world today. People need new ways of coming together across differences and divides. Music creates an inclusive and participatory environment. Everyone in Polyphony’s rooms, concert halls and hallways can feel they belong.
That’s powerful.”

— Craig Cogut, co-founder of Polyphony


Polyphony’s early days began when Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar, then a young professional violinist with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, was compelled to answer his community’s need for classical music. At the time, Nabeel’s hometown of Nazareth, Israel, an Arab-majority city, had no musical training opportunities and almost no afterschool development programs for young people in the arts or sports.


Nabeel asked Daniel Barenboim, co-founder of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and legendary conductor, to help him bring his dream to life. Barenboim agreed and secured seed money for the project. In 2006, Nabeel left his music career and life in Germany and returned to Nazareth to launch the Barenboim-Said Conservatory with its first 25 students. Inspired by Nabeel’s vision, four Jewish musicians signed on to give lessons, commuting 90 minutes each way to and from Tel Aviv.


In 2011, Craig and Deborah Cogut, two Jewish-American social entrepreneurs, met Nabeel. They were moved by his passion and dedication to social transformation. In 2012, the three of them launched the Polyphony Foundation to support efforts to bring together Arab and Jewish children in Israel by offering them equal opportunities in music.


Nabeel directs Polyphony Education, an Israeli Article 46 public institution, and implements Polyphony programming in Israel. Polyphony Foundation, a 501c(3) tax-exempt not-for-profit based in the United States, primarily focuses on providing strategic support to the programs in Israel. The staff and board of directors of both organizations work in tandem to strengthen initiatives and operations in Israel.


With the formidable support of like-minded partners and donors across the world, Polyphony continues to grow in reach and impact.


Today, Polyphony is the fastest-growing music program in Israel and is supported by popular international musicians like David Broza, Branford Marsalis, Ian Anderson, and Renée Fleming.

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