Some of the world’s most talented musicians have played concerts at Lincoln Center. On September 10, the center hosted a unique class of star musicians: Kids and teens.
The young players are part of the World Peace Orchestra, or WPO. The group held its inaugural, or first, Music for Peace concert in New York City, with 134 students from more than 60 countries taking part. Musicians were selected from all over the world, including conflict regions like Iraq, Uganda, and Ethiopia.
Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey introduced the orchestra and spoke about the concert’s theme. “Tonight we will see and hear evidence that while countries may go to war it is culture that unites us,” Spacey said. Culture is expressed through the arts, such as music, dance, and writing.
A Peaceful History
The World Peace Orchestra began in 2013. The nonprofit group brings kids together using the common language of music. To be considered for the orchestra, students first had to be recommended by their teachers and then audition online for a panel of judges. Once chosen, professional musicians and teachers then worked with the players to improve their skills.
Some of the young musicians play classical instruments, such as violins and flutes. Others play instruments unique to their home country. For example, Arnold Mugo, 16, from Kenya, plays a percussion instrument called the djembé. The drum is originally from West Africa. Mugo says he was shocked when he learned he was selected for the orchestra. “I can’t express how I felt. I was rolling on the floor,” he told TFK. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
The student musicians arrived in New York in August to begin practicing for the big performance. For many of them, including Mugo, the program marks their first trip to the United States. “My country has big buildings but everything here is supersize,” Mugo told TFK. “It’s so amazing.”
Meet The Musicians
Adomas Hendrixson, 13, from Lithuania, plays piano for the WPO. Before the New York City performance, Hendrixson spoke to TFK about what he hoped to take away from the event. “Fun and joy—people smiling and clapping,” he said. “This is one of the only times in your life this could happen and I’m very excited.”
Mugo says his favorite part of the WPO is making new friends from around the world. “I hope when I go home, I just take a little bit of every friend that I made here—Brazil, Portugal, Queens,” Mugo told TFK. “I hope that I take part of their culture home with me so I understand them more.”
WPO spokesperson Scott Noppe-Brandon says the goal is for students to use the lessons learned from the orchestra to encourage other young people. “Regardless of what country you’re from, regardless of your age, ethnicity, or background,” he told TFK. “Music plays a role in all our lives.”