Make Music, Build A Bridge & Don't Boil Your Potatoes.

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BLOG: BuildaBridge International Make Music Day 2018 programme in Northern Ireland as part of Community Relations, Refugee & Cultural Awareness Week.

International Music Day is celebrated across the world on 21st June. In 2018 Beyond Skin partnered with Make Music UK and #ArtsDialogue friends BuildaBridge International (Philadelphia) to deliver workshops and events in Bangor, Millisle & Omagh.

BuildaBridge International Executive Director Ami Yares, Dr Janelle Junkin & Darren Ferguson (Beyond Skin) reminisce.

"Make Music Day & Community Relations Week left an indelible mark on the developing relationship between Beyond Skin and BuildaBridge International. For a great many years, unbeknownst to the two organizations, both Beyond Skin and BuildaBridge had been advocating and enacting programming to activate the intrinsic power of music-making in many communities across the world. This June, the two organizations partnered and facilitated a series of workshops that epitomized the world Beyond Skin and BuildaBridge envision through music-making.

At the Millisle Youth Club, BuildaBridge facilitators who also happen to be the Executive Director of BuildaBridge, Ami Yares and Dr. Janelle Junkin, Director of Community Programming and Research, worked with Beyond Skin Artists Greek Bouzouki master Nikos Petsakos & French singer Hajer Messaoud. Together, the musicians helped the youth group of rather inexperienced music-makers to make music. Some of the youth had never touched an instrument, let along receive supportive instruction. The youth took to the activities with great fervor and together with the facilitators managed to write a piece of music, play in ⅝ time, improvise and perform at Bangor Castle, the home of Bangor’s municipality leadership. The trust formed between the BuildaBridge, Beyond Skin facilitators and the youth synthesized a unique and formative experience that would be wonderful to recreate in the future. Helping people see beyond their present worldview by virtue of making music is a deep and fundamental need in society.

One of the many things uniting BuildaBridge and Beyond Skin is the value of access to the arts and art-making. The imaginative forces triggered by music-making when fostered in a safe and supportive environment produce such immense feelings of joy and achievement, it still confounding why schools and communities still struggle for funding. At the very least, the music produced at Millisle enable youth who ordinarily lack access to such facilitated opportunities, had the opportunity to feel and experience the potentiality of engaging with music-making.

May we have the wisdom and support to continue such sacred work. Thank you to Make Music Day for helping inspire through music-making."  - Ami Yares.

"The Music Day with Millisle Youth Club, Sacred Heart College & Omagh Academy, Beyond Skin and BuildaBridge International staff presented a unique opportunity for multiple ethnic, racial, social and cultural people to interact as well as providing a space for an intergenerational exchange of music. Our coming together, through music, engendered a shared learning space where we could teach each other, learn about each other, learn from one another and explore how to take this experience and share it with all others whom we interact with. Opportunities for shared learning and developing agents of change through music are a necessary part of peacebuilding and it was an honor to be part of this for the time that we collaborated. We hope that more opportunities for collaboration and creative peacebuilding not only occur between our organizations, but in other spaces around the world, too." - Dr Janelle Junkin

"It is always healthy to work with people living in another part of the world especially when you bring them to you own shores. They see through a fresh lens and bring new techniques and ways of working developed through their own homeland cultural traditions and environments. All this compliments the skills of people working locally in different territories but facing the same issues. As well as working together to deliver a project it has been strong ethos of the #ArtsDialogue International team to carve out time in a programme to allow us all to spend quality time together. Of course this quality time builds relationship and strengthens the team and outcomes. What made it all more special was that Mark Smulian a musician and producer who had worked extensively with Ami in Palestine & Israel with was also able to spend a few days in Northern Ireland for Make Music Day having already worked with Millisle Youth Forum.

I was delighted to welcome Ami Yares and Janelle Junkin to Northern Ireland for the Make Music Week programme - two amazingly gifted people oozing experience in the transformative power of the Arts.  Both Ami and Janelle have vast experience in using music for healing, addressing division and of course building bridges. That said even with a high level of musicial ability, peacebuilding & community development skills, we in Northern Ireland always seem to throw a curve ball. In a school in Omagh some of the pupils learning about the struggles of refugees and victims of inequality were just as horrified to find out Ami Yares boiled his potatoes. Now if you find yourself in a diversity awareness workshop with everyone deep in conversations whether potatoes should be steamed or boiled, it is not a bad thing. Debate (whatever the subject), laughter (we had loads) & music are the perfect cocktail ingredients to forge strong relationships. 

Make Music week had many sucesses and for all it was a very enjoyable learning, sharing and creating experience. All the children and young people involved were fabulous and worked as a intergenerational team with Ami, Janelle and Beyond Skin #ArtsDialogue colleagues Nikos, Hajer, Lata, Mark and Jan.  As it turned out the slow careful process of steaming potatoes was the metapor for successful Building Bridges - it is the healthiest way to cook potatoes as the nutrients do not leak into the water."  - Darren Ferguson

Millisle Youth Forum - Bangor Event Slideshow on Photobucket

Omagh Schools Slideshow on Photobucket

The BuildaBridge Make Music Refugee Week programme was in partnership with Make Music UK  supported by Arts Council NI,Community Relations Council,  Fermanagh & Omagh Council, Ards & North Down Council, IBIS Belfast Hotel and Community Foundation NI.

Ami Yares is a professional musician & the executive director of BuildaBridge International (BaB). BaB is an arts intervention NGO that uses trauma-informed programming to instill hope and healing in vulnerable populations. The team consists of teaching artists and board certified arts and music therapists who work in tandem with another. Based in Philadelphia, BaB has provided over 18 years of trauma-informed art making all over the world. BaB currently works with refugees who have experienced torture, Latina domestic abuse survivors and youth in and around Philadelphia. Ami Yares has also been involved in Heartbeat – an organisation uniting Palestinian & Israeli Youth through Music.

Dr. Janelle Junkin is a board-certified music therapist and  an independent researcher currently conducting a Program Impact Evaluation for the Armed Services Arts Partnership, Washington DC. She has taught at various universities in the Philadelphia region and is currently an adjunct professor at Harrisburg University, Philadelphia campus. Dr. Junkin works with BuildaBridge International as the Director of Community Programming and Research. She is the co-founder of unlock Ngenuity which focuses on consulting, creativity, and community through therapy, coaching and research. She is published in the Journal of Applied Arts & Health and the International Journal of Education & the Arts. Her areas of research include child and youth identity development, the role of the arts in conflict transformation, and understanding the community arts and creative arts therapists as vehicles that provide hope and healing to people and communities in crisis.