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



The foundation of Polyphony was laid when Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar, then a young professional violinist with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, saw the need to connect his Arab community to classical music, a genre beloved by millions the world over. At the time, Nabeel’s hometown of Nazareth, an Arab-majority city had no music training opportunities and almost no afterschool development programs for young people in the arts or sports (a situation which remains to this day).


Nabeel asked Daniel Barenboim, co-founder of the Orchestra and world-famous conductor, to help him bring his dream to life. Barenboim agreed and secured seed money for the project. In 2006, Nabeel left behind 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, were introduced to Nabeel. They were moved by his passion and dedication to social transformation. In 2012, the three of them launched Polyphony to bring together Arab and Jewish children in Israel by offering them equal opportunities in music.


Polyphony Education, headed by Nabeel, comprises all the music programming in Israel, and Polyphony Foundation, led by President Rick Hobish, leads the fundraising efforts in the U.S. With the formidable support of like-minded partners and donors across the world, we continue to grow in reach and impact.


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




Help us empower more young people through music. Donate.