Spring into music, Amman, with pianist Karim Said at the keys
It is quite difficult in Jordan to receive the necessary training to become a professional musician, according to pianist Karim Said.
Limited demand from the public for classical music contributed to this issue, the 26-year-old told The Jordan Times in a recent interview.
"Although I personally had a fantastic teacher who taught me at the highest possible level when I lived here, we do not yet have a system in place where aspiring music students can truly develop their full potential as performers," he said.
Said is in Amman for the Amman Spring Series festival, where he will perform three concerts with a number of Jordanian musicians.
Said, who moved to the UK at the age of 11 because his father wanted him to grow up in Europe, noted that music lessons are compulsory at school in the West.
This enhances "the public’s appreciation of classical music and increases the number of people who attend concerts", he added.
"My high school had 200 students in total, from the age of 10 to 18. You can only enter the school by passing a musical audition. They do not test your academic skills; they had to hear you play.”
Said began playing piano at the age of five and was taught by Agnes Bashir before he left Jordan.
"She was a very famous teacher in Iraq and she worked with me very intensively and gave me solid foundations of the Russian school of piano playing," Said recalled.
He said his family's support contributed to his choice of a career.
"My father and grandmother were both musicians. My grandmother gave me her piano and she said 'I am too old to play now you can take it.’ My father taught me music theory."
Said noted that he was determined to be a professional musician, so he was strict with himself when it came to practising.
The pianist, who has two degrees from the UK's Royal Academy of Music, has performed in several countries, including the UK, the US and in Arab states.
Last year, Said created his own orchestra dubbed the Da Vinci Players, which consists of 30 members of different nationalities; he is the only Jordanian.
"I chose them very carefully and they are all based in London. We have been approached by agents and sponsors and we are planning future events. I hope very much to bring them to Jordan to have a collaborative experience with Jordanian musicians."
Noting that he is a pianist "who likes to collaborate with other musicians", unlike others who prefer to play on their own, Said explained that he is "both the conductor and the pianist at the same time".
Said added that he makes it a point to introduce the music to the audience and "tell them what they are going to hear" as it makes them feels they are participating in the performance.
"Because I think they appreciate music more if they feel that they are involved with the artists.”
Said will do the same during the festival, which was scheduled to open on Tuesday evening with “A Viennese Trio”, that will feature musical pieces by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven.
"My mission in this festival is to share the joy of classical music to as wide an audience as possible — hopefully consisting largely of students. It would be a dream come true if I find that children started to learn musical instruments as a result of our efforts at this festival.”
The second concert, “Beethoven’s Ghost” is slated for April 10, while the third, “Slavic Roots”, will be performed on April 12.
The festival is organised by Friends of Jordan Festivals in cooperation with the National Music Conservatory.
All performances are being held at Al Hussein Cultural Centre (AHCC), which some musicians and music fans are reportedly boycotting due to an alleged attack by an AHCC employee on a musician during a recent performance.
"When I arrived here, I heard about a boycott of the Al Hussein Cultural Centre. I do not really want to discuss the reasons of the boycott in this interview, as I do not fully understand the story, having been absent from Jordan when the incident in question took place," Said noted.
"I do know, however, that this boycott will only harm us musicians... It would hurt me on a personal level if I found out that fellow Jordanian artists boycotted this festival — the first of its kind in Jordan — especially when I spent the best part of the last 18 months planning it."
"I know that my colleagues who have been working with me tirelessly since the start of the whole process will feel the same way. This is our very first festival, which is dedicated to promoting Jordanian talent to its own audience. It would not help our cause as Jordanian artists if the boycott was implemented.”
by Muath Freij