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The Polyphony Foundation supports a multi-tiered programming structure that begins with broad outreach to elementary school children, enhancing the musical and personal development of the students, all the way up to performing in a professional orchestra. Each program is designed to build on knowledge acquired in previous programs in the series.

As the students advance, the programs call for increasingly mixed groups of Arab and Jewish students and musicians to learn, experience, and perform together. This interaction helps to bridge the cultural divide between students, and demonstrates to their communities the rich possibilities for diverse groups to work and create together.

Click on the programs below to learn more about Polyphony’s transformational work!

Alhan: Music Appreciation

Music Appreciation Classes in Elementary Schools

Classical music can spark conversations that bridge cultural divides and unite people from different backgrounds. The first step in starting these conversations is to ensure that everyone can speak the unique language of music.


This program was developed in collaboration with the Levinsky Institute to address the lack of music education in Arab schools in particular, and in all schools in the Galilee region in general.

By working within communities and community institutions at the grassroots, local level, Polyphony is closing the music education gap between Arab and Jewish schools. In the past year and a half, we have doubled Polyphony’s Music Appreciation program to reach over 1,500 students in 9 different schools and 6 villages across Israel. In September 2013 the Alhan program will expand to reach 3,000 students in 16 schools located in the following towns: Nazareth, Reine, Ramleh, Haifa, Kibbutz Eshbal, Jaffa, Kfar Yasif, Deir Hanna, Kabul, Sakhnin, Acre, Misgav, and Kamaneh.

Alhan: Music Appreciation exposes students to classical music, Arabic music, and Israeli music, teaching them to understand the various components and stylistic characteristics of each. The students gain an appreciation not only of Western music, but also of music that is part of their own culture, or that of their neighbor’s. Throughout the year Arab and Jewish students come together at each other’s schools to listen to chamber music concerts. At the end of each year, students are brought together to participate in an Explained Concert, performed by the Galilee Chamber Orchestra, providing them the opportunity to hear the music they have studied in class performed by a professional orchestra.

The teachers who instruct the Music Appreciation classes are Arab and Jewish music teachers who have participated in a summer training course developed by Polyphony. During this training course they learn not only how to instill an appreciation of classical music in their students, but also how to raise awareness on the culture of listening, tolerance, and respect, and to promote understanding on the principle of diversity.

Alhan Music Appreciation has gained recognition from the Israeli Ministry of Education, which has agreed to recommend this program to its schools.

Polyphony Conservatories: Nazareth and Jaffa


conservatory 2

The Polyphony Conservatory in Nazareth and its sister conservatory in Jaffa provide first-class music instruction to over 150 of the region’s most gifted and motivated youth. The conservatory was launched in 2006 with the support of the Barenboim-Said Foundation and under the leadership of Polyphony Foundation’s own executive director, Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar.

The Polyphony conservatories are the first music schools in the Arab community in Israel that have reached international standards. The faculty at the Polyphony Conservatory and its affiliate is composed of 25 leading young Israeli musicians and teachers from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Nazareth. A large number of the faculty members were trained in Europe and in the U.S. and have played in renowned orchestras. The Conservatory’s program not only provides students with the skills to become excellent performers, but also places considerable emphasis on the role of music education as a tool to shape society.

The high level of our students is illustrated by the fact that two of our young Arab violin students have won first prize in the prestigious Paul Ben-Haim competition in Tel Aviv in March 2012, and by the fact that our students are winners of the Keren Sharet awards in Tel Aviv. Our conservatory program includes intense individual training, theory classes, chamber music groups, and orchestral projects.

Scholar-in-Residence Seminars

Scholar-in-Residence Seminar Program

To foster positive Arab-Jewish interaction at our conservatory level, Polyphony Education has established a Scholar-in-Residence Seminar program. This program provides the opportunity for Arab and Jewish students to come together to share their love of music, and engage in discussions about music, citizenship, and civil society, with professors from leading universities in Israel and abroad. Arab and Jewish students spend long hours rehearsing a carefully selected piece of music, and are encouraged to think of how this particular piece of music speaks to them as performers, and how it is relevant to them as maturing adolescents in a diverse and conflicted society.

The Scholar-in-Residence Seminar program is made possible because of a partnership between Polyphony Education and the Jerusalem Music Center (JMC). The Jerusalem Music Center is Israel’s most prestigious music center, and has long strived to promote music excellence in all the country, including the Galilee region. Polyphony’s institutional partnership with the Jerusalem Music Center and its affiliated music conservatories has opened up our own network to include both Arab and Jewish talented young musicians.This program consist of 50% Arab and 50% Jewish exceptionally talented young participants, selected from Polyphony Education’s two conservatories as well as from conservatories under the Jerusalem Music Center.

Through our collaboration with the JMC, we are working to establish a framework of music education that encourages socio political awareness, and creates opportunities for long-term Arab-Jewish institutional collaboration. Based on the core principles of excellence in music and in performance, and an emphasis on education, Polyphony and the JMC seek not only to teach their students how to play the instrument, but to educate them to be aware of their own musicianship in the broader context of civil society.

“Music and the City” Seminar, October 2012 (video)

scholar in residence seminar

Youth Orchestra and Youth Ensembles

Youth Orchestra and Youth Ensembles

Polyphony Education and the Jerusalem Music Center have jointly established a youth orchestra and youth ensembles program. Polyphony Education has one Youth Orchestra, four set Youth Ensembles, and several additional Youth Ensembles that come together on a project-basis. Each of these musical groups is comprised of 50% Arab students from Polyphony Education, and 50% Jewish students from the Jerusalem Music Center. The students involved in the Youth Orchestra participate in Polyphony Education’s Scholar-in-Residence Seminars, while the students involved in the Youth Ensembles meet regularly throughout the year to rehearse and perform together.

Polyphony Education’s Youth Orchestra and Youth Ensembles create the opportunity for positive Arab-Jewish interaction not only amongst our students, but also between Arab and Jewish communities and institutions. Through Polyphony’s partnership with the JMC, our young Arab musicians are now performing for Jewish audiences in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Likewise, JMC’s Jewish students are now giving concerts in Nazareth and other Arab villages in the Galilee region. This important aspect of performance is a critical component of our partnership with the JMC, and our goal of creating more positive Arab-Jewish interaction.

Youth Orchestra rehearsal, March 2013 (video)

youth orchestra

Galilee Chamber Orchestra

Galilee Orchestra

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The Galilee Chamber Orchestra was established by Polyphony Education in 2012. As the first professional orchestra in the region, the Galilee Orchestra aims to lead the development of cultural life in the Galilee on par with Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It has hosted musicians of national and international renown, while providing professional opportunities for local musicians and Polyphony students. This Orchestra consists of Arab and Jewish musicians from all over Israel, and is striving to achieve an equal ratio of Arab and Jewish participants by 2014, by increasing the number of Arab professional musicians.

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