Afghanistan National Institute of Music tour completes first stop in Washington, D.C.

Embassy of Afghanistan

Secretary Kerry thanks the ANIM students for their ensemble performance at the U.S. State Department.

Embassy of Afghanistan

ANIM students stand with Senator Carl Levin, Ambassador Eklil Hakimi, and Dr. Ahmad Sarmast.

Embassy of Afghanistan

The Afghanistan National Institute of Music's Afghan Youth Orchestra and the Maryland Youth Chamber Orchestra perform at the Kennedy Center.

Embassy of Afghanistan

Ambassador Hakimi delivers his remarks before the ANIM Kennedy Center performance.

Photo: Secretary Kerry with ANIM students
Photo: ANIM students with Senator Levin
Photo: ANIM at Kennedy Center
Photo: Amb Hakimi speaks at Kennedy Center concert

WASHINGTON – The Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) has made history with the start of its first U.S. tour. Since arriving in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, members of the Afghan Youth Orchestra and other smaller ensembles have performed an astounding six times culminating in a historic performance at the Kennedy Center on Thursday evening.

The free Millennium Stage performance to a completely full Concert Hall featured the entire Afghan Youth Orchestra as well as members of the Maryland Youth Chamber Orchestra where they performed different arrangements of both classical western and traditional Afghan pieces. Ambassador Eklil Hakimi and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns exalted the hard work and success of the students as an example of the larger successes happening across Afghanistan.

“ANIM’s success illustrates the remarkable progress occurring in Afghanistan... I truly admire the dedication of these young artists and their ability to overcome adversity,” said Ambassador Hakimi. “I strongly believe that subjects like music and art are crucial components of a well-balanced education that will enable Afghanistan’s youth to become tomorrow’s agents of peace and change.”

During their Monday morning performance at the U.S. Department of State, within an hour of his first day on the job, Secretary of State John Kerry dropped by to say a few encouraging words to the students and listened to a traditional Afghan arrangement. US Undersecretary of State Tara Sonenshine, Afghan Counselor Hakim Atarud and ANIM founder and Director Dr. Ahmad Sarmast also delivered remarks about the importance of cultural diplomacy and the continuation of Afghanistan's rich musical heritage for generations to come.

“I’ve had the privilege of traveling to Afghanistan many times now, and I think you all know that we have very, very high hopes for your country that you can find peace and stability, and we will continue to work with you to try to do that,” said Secretary Kerry. “And music – music is the international language of peace and of possibilities and dreams. So we’re happy to welcome you here as ambassadors of peace.”

U.S. Senator Carl Levin of Michigan invited Dr. Sarmast and a few students to Capitol Hill Wednesday evening where they gave an ensemble performance to a small group of guests including Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Afghan Deputy Minister of Education Asif Nang, and Ambassador Eklil Hakimi. Senator Levin gave the students a personal tour of the Capitol Building and explained how the U.S. Congress operates in comparison to the Afghan parliamentary system. Senator Levin also explained his role as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee which has committed to helping Afghan National Security Forces operate independently and assured the children of his continued support for Afghanistan. As a token of his appreciation, Dr. Sarmast invited Senator Levin to visit the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in the future for a special performance in his honor.

Ambassador Hakimi welcomed ANIM students for a reception at the Embassy where students and guests were treated to an intimate ensemble performance of traditional Afghan music.

On the students’ first night in Washington, the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C. and the local Afghan community organized a dinner and ensemble performance at Dunyah Banquet Hall in Alexandria. The dinner allowed local Afghans and Afghan-Americans to connect with the students and show their support for ANIM.

Smaller ensembles performed at the World Bank headquarters and at the Italian Embassy in connection with the Aschiana Foundation which supports some of the ANIM students.

The next stop on the ANIM tour is New York City where the students with perform at Carnegie Hall on February 12. They will conclude the tour with a residency and concert at Boston’s New England Conservatory.

To watch the entire Kennedy Center performance, click HERE.
To watch U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talk with the ANIM students, click HERE.
To buy tickets for the Carnegie Hall concert on February 12, click HERE.