In the cozy confines of an auditorium, a group of young students eat after-school pretzels, anxiously waiting for their Arabic percussion class to begin. When “Mr. Hafez” arrives to start the lesson, the youngsters scamper over to their drum bags, excited to begin the day’s music-making.
The partnership between John Moffet Elementary and Al-Bustan has blossomed for over six years. Recently, this relationship took a new and exciting turn. One of Mr. Hafez’s star drummers, now graduated and attending middle school, has returned to that familiar auditorium, to pass on the lessons she learned under Mr. Hafez’s tutelage. Her name is Dalal. She was effusive in describing how learning the art of drumming helped her connect to her Palestinian heritage. “I’m Arab,” she says, explaining how she chose the art of drumming. “And this [gesturing to the drum on her lap] is like the main Arabic music instrument.”
When her family is able to visit Palestine, she has been able to showcase her talents. “In my country, before a wedding, we have a party. And I have played my drum at those.” As part of her new school’s community service program, Dalal was given a choice of where she would like to serve. She immediately decided to come back to her old school to help out; both in the office and with Mr. Hafez’s after-school drumming sessions. “I feel very excited to be back,” she says, “and to know that everybody knows me.”
Dalal attended Al-Bustan’s summer camp in 2008, 2009, and 2010. It was there that Mr. Hafez first noticed her many abilities. “She is a born leader!” he exclaimed. “She would help me. I would give her five younger students, tell her to teach them certain rhythms, and they would be off.” He couldn’t say enough about what an asset she has been, both in the past and in the present. “She is so smart. And responsible, too. You can really trust her, you know?”
It is a great thing to see Dalal sitting on the stage, confidently leading a group of youngsters who sit in seats where she once sat. Leading students to broaden and deepen their experiences with Arab culture is a foundational goal for Al-Bustan programs. It is always gratifying to see students come back to visit.