By DJ Dave Hoffenberg
There’s a cool event happening Oct. 7 at Artistree in South Pomfret: Renowned composer/pianist Malek Jandali brings his Pianos for Peace show with local pianist Will Drebitko opening, a 4 p.m. show. I had the utmost pleasure of speaking with Jandali and heard his views on making the world a better place.
This show is possible because Drebitko’s parents, Dr. Clare and Jason Drebitko, wanted to bring this to their community.
Pianos for Peace is Jandali’s non-profit organization, founded in 2015. “It’s my way to give back to the community through art and music. Our slogan is building peace through music and education,” she said.
Each year they get 50 pianos donated and local and international artists and students transform them from brown and black to multi-color. They spend most of the year transforming them for the annual festival in Atlanta, which ends on the International Day of Peace, Sept. 21. During the festival, the pianos are displayed in parks, airports, etc. The festival ends with a joint performance with the Moscow Ballet. One tour was called “The Dove of Peace” and the airport piano had a dove which Jandali called, “amazing and fate.”
The transformed pianos are delivered to schools, nursing homes, community centers and healthcare facilities. “Really, any organization in need. We donate these and that’s where the real impact happens. We engage artists, who we call Ambassadors for Peace, in a year round community arts program. We make the art and music accessible to all,” Jandali said.
The Drebitko family learned about PFP at Jandali’s Carnegie Hall concert in February which included the presentation of the 2017 Malek Jandali International Youth Piano Competition awards, which Will Drebitko won. The Vermont piano was painted by renowned local artist/potter, Miranda Thomas, with the help of Will and local teens. It’s showcased on the Woodstock town green over Columbus Day weekend. Then, it’s donated to Scotland House, a health and wellness care facility for adults with physical and/or cognitive impairments. “It takes a village to spread peace. I can’t wait to join the symphony for peace in Vermont,” Jandali said.
I think it’s awesome they heal with music and spread peace, both things this world needs every day. “We donate these pianos to deserving organizations we call privileged homes. We have music therapy programs in Atlanta public schools. Music comes in very handy with special needs kids, cancer and Alzheimer patients. It has special healing power, and peace is a crucial part of our American values. All I’m trying to do as an American artist is preserve our American values, our human values of peace, justice and freedom which all goes back to community. We’re bringing unity back to community. We need to put all our differences aside as we celebrate diversity, unity and symphony. The meaning of symphony is to sync together and we’re doing it with peace,” Jandali explained.
“We encourage any community to replicate this or contact us to collaborate and join hands. It’s wonderful for the Drebitko family and their initiative. They’ve probably never planned something like that in their life. Now you can appreciate it more when you times that by 50. You have to paint them, tune them, service them and move them,” Jandali said.
Jandali lives in New York. He was born in Germany, raised in Syria by his parents. “I’m an American, well, I’m just a human and global citizen.” He’s played the piano all his life.
“My parents took me to concerts, I would point at the stage and say, I want to be there,” he remembered. He started as a classical pianist and won numerous competitions.
“When I came to the States on a full scholarship and became an American citizen with rights and freedom, I began to search for my own identity. I became a composer and now I only perform my own music.” Jandali is thankful for his freedom and becoming an American artist. It gave him the ability to join hands with great musicians like Roberto Diaz. “He’s one of the best violists in the world,” he said. Jandali is beyond excited that Diaz is going to perform his viola concerto next month.
This interview was very special to me. There’s not enough room, so please Google him. He’s trying to preserve the Syrian culture through music. “It’s hard to witness the destruction of this culture. You have a new set of responsibilities and duties on your shoulders as an artist. You do whatever you can to preserve that culture. Music can’t stop a bullet, but maybe can inspire people to spread peace.”
The story behind PFP is that, Jandali’s parents were beaten in Syria because of music. “Oh my God, is music that powerful? I knew Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was powerful, but I never realized how powerful until I saw pictures of mother with broken teeth and a black eye, beaten by the dictatorship in Syria. Maybe we can do the opposite, and that’s how PFP came to life. I realized then how the self power of music is,” Jandali explained.
One of his favorite quotes is by Rumi and it really sums up his life: “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” And boy, does he. He embraces others, the youth and uniting with the community. Jandali said, “You have to be part of that symphony of humanity, otherwise what are we doing? Music changes people and people change the world. It’s always better to live in peace than die in it. We always say, ‘May he rest in peace.’ How about living in peace?”