As a French national of Tunisian and Danish origins living between London and Greece, I am no stranger to navigating a conflux of many cultures and identities. And as a tour manager at a classical music agency, I am lucky to travel legally in this world of desperate mass migration.
I decided to share my experience in music education—I was Professor of Music and Politics at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris—with the many children I encountered while volunteering with refugees in Greece.
Refugees are fed and accommodated, but what about their aspirations? Few initiatives exist to rebuild self-esteem, encourage social integration, and inspire hope in the future. Nearly 28,000 refugee children live in Greece today. They deserve a childhood with confidence and the certainty of belonging.
To address this, I co-founded El Sistema Greece. With the help of Greek and foreign teachers, professional musicians, internationally-known artists, and refugee hires, we provide free music education in refugee camps. We create choirs and orchestras that mix refugee, migrant, and Greek youth in order to empower children and build a sense of community.
We started with two-dozen children in a refugee camp close to Athens; we now have more than 500 participating in various concerts.
On stage, everyone is united in a desire to excel, and we see the potential of a person, rather than a threat. These young artists are adding value to the community, not disrupting it. Their art is changing the perception of refugees as a burden. By learning music, these children are inspired to strive for a better future, while the music itself provides a platform for dialogue and togetherness across diverse communities.
We are creating a community based on solidarity, hard work, and being part of a team. These children are the new face of Europe.
“The message is simple: no matter your religion, your nationality, or your color of skin, on stage we are all artists. These children are the future, and they are brilliant! What drives me during the day is their smiles. Each smile is a victory.”