Polyphony 2018 our year in review


Polyphony reached 10,537 students in 237 schools in Israel through Alhan, its in-school music curriculum for students in kindergarten to sixth grade.

The program trained approximately 170 teachers to implement the curriculum in Jewish and Arab schools throughout the country.

Members of the Galilee Chamber Orchestra performed over 250 in-school and explained concerts to participating students.

Demographic breakdown of Alhan students.

This year marks the first time Polyphony brought the curriculum to both Arab and Jewish schools in observant, religious communities.

Total Alhan participation, 2012-2018. 2019 and 2020, projected.

See a map of Alhan's locations here.


The Conservatory in Nazareth continues to experience wonderful growth and recruited 40 new students this year. Now, over 150 students receive after-school lessons at the Conservatory.

A total of 18 teachers gave approximately 740 hours of instrumental lessons in piano, violin, viola, cello, flute, clarinet, recorder, trumpet, French horn, and voice; students also received lessons in musical theory and korrepetition, as well as chamber group instruction.

We welcomed a new teacher from Haifa who is a student at Tel Aviv University’s Buchmann-Mehta School of Music and also a member of the Galilee Orchestra. He comes twice a week to Nazareth to teach violin.

The Conservatory teaching staff continues to travel to Nazareth from Tel Aviv, Givatayim, Ramat Gan, Haifa, Hadera, and Jerusalem to give lessons each week.

Scholar in Residence Seminar

Some 70 young violinists, violists, and cellists from all parts of the country converge at the Keshet Eilon Music Center twice a year for three days of intensive study, individual lessons, studio classes, chamber groups, and orchestral playing.

  • Individual Lessons and Studio Classes: Each student receives intensive, daily individual instrumental lessons from Seminar faculty, comprised of teachers from both Keshet Eilon and Polyphony. Instructors also lead small studio groups where students workshop their performances and discuss musical and performance issues together.
  • Chamber groups: A dozen advanced musicians play in three string quartets composed of both Arab and Jewish musicians and receive daily training together during the Seminar.
  • Masterclass with Chaim Taub: At December’s Seminar, Chaim Taub, concertmaster of the Israeli Philharmonic from 1969 to 1988, worked with one of the string quartets in preparation for the final concert. He focused on helping the group create a unified sound and artistic interpretation of their piece.
  • Orchestral Rehearsals with Itzhak Rashkovsky: The large string ensemble enjoys approximately five rehearsals with one of Keshet Eilon's founders and current Music Director, Itzhak Rashkovsky.
  • Performance by the Carmel Quartet: In a lecture-performance, the Quartet discussed the characteristic elements of Dvorak’s “American Quartet” that give the piece both its moniker and significance in chamber music repertoire. The Quartet also highlighted social factors around the work’s premier and reception in 1894.
  • Recital and Orchestral Performance (pictured): The closing concert brought together approximately 250 audience members including students’ families and the kibbutz community. The concert included a recital featuring outstanding students performing solo works, as well as the seminar orchestra which combined the younger performers with more advanced students on a shared stage.
Violinist Chaim Taub giving a masterclass to Seminar participants.

Scholar in Residence Seminars - At a Glance

Participants' hometowns at the December 2018 Seminar.

Of the 70 participants at the December 2018 Seminar, there were 25 Arab musicians and 45 Jewish musicians.

Participant ages at the December 2018 Seminar.

Photo: Visiting the string atelier at Keshet Eilon.

The Year in Performance

Pictured: Polyphony Co-Founder and Executive Director, Nabeel Abboud Ashkar, conducts the Polyphony Ensemble at the Festival van Vlaanderen in Ghent, Belgium in September 2018. Photo by Björn Comhaire.

April: US Tour

Polyphony Quartet's April tour to the United States featured performances at The McCain Institute (top) in Sedona, Arizona. The Quartet also performed for five congregations in Westchester county at the Bet Am Shalom Synagogue in White Plains, New York (middle and bottom photos).

Above: April 2018 US Tour. Photos in rows 2 and 3 by Eric Levine.

August: Festival Suoni dal Golfo. Lerici, Italy

A joint quartet of musicians from Polyphony and the Jerusalem Music Academy performed at the Festival Suoni dal Golfo in August. The Quartet performed at the Piazzo Mottino (top left) and also at the Lerici Castle with mezzo-soprano Jelena Končar and pianist Giuseppe Bruno (top middle and right). You can read more here.

Pictured left to right: violinists Jeries Saleh and Ibrahim Boulus, violist Amichai Hefter and cellist Eli Levi.

September: Polyphony Ensemble in Belgium

The Polyphony Ensemble traveled to Belgium in September where they gave over 10 concerts in Ghent, Zottegem, and Deinze at a variety of independent venues, including the Ghent Festival of Flanders, the St. Anna Church in Ghent, and De Bijloke. Performances featured works by Vivaldi, Bach, Stamitz, Grieg, and favorite selections in Arab and Jewish traditions. You can read more about the tour here.

Pictured below - Top left and right: Performing at OdeGand. Photos by Björn Comhaire. Middle: the Ensemble finds time to tour Ghent's old city.

Above left: At the Festival van Vlaanderen. Above right: ________
The Polyphony Ensemble performing at OdeGand in Belgium in September 2018. Photo by: Björn Comhaire

October: Performances with Jethro Tull

Polyphony musicians took the stage with Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson for three concerts throughout Israel as part of a tour commemorating the rock group's 50th anniversary.

Lead singer and flutist Ian Anderson donated revenue from these concerts to two Israeli organizations, including the Polyphony Foundation, for their efforts to bring together Jews and Arabs in Israel through classical music. An announcement made on Anderson’s behalf states:

“I believe this will give hope to a younger generation and fulfill the values of a communal life." Ian Anderson
Polyphony Quartet musicians with Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson in Tel Aviv on October 27th, 2018.

November Performance with Noa Nini

Polyphony’s musicians performed alongside Israeli singer Achinoam Nini (Noa), one of the country's greatest talents, in Nazareth on November 3rd. Noa has performed at venues including the Vatican for Pope John Paul II, Rome's Colosseum, and New York City's Carnegie Hall. She is an ardent supporter of organizations like Polyphony whose work aims to build peace and bring communities together.

Following the performance, Noa shared:

"Tonight I performed in Nazareth, with Gil Dor and the Polyphony String quartet: wonderful, talented young people, Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel, together on stage."

November: West Coast Tour

In November, violinist Shaden Nahra, violist Amichai Yaakov Hefter, cellist Eli Levi, and flutist Mais Hriesh came together for a series of performances in California. The young musicians have been working together over the past few years and are all participants in Polyphony programs.

Their tour included performances with question and answer sessions at a private home in Los Angeles; at Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon (top left); the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto (top middle); at the Kehila Jewish High School in Palo Alto (middle); and KADIST in San Francisco. Photos from Kehila by Karla Chouhan.

The Quartet also found time to visit California's famed coast in between performances.

December: Galilee Chamber Orchestra Holiday Concert

Bringing together musicians from all over Israel from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, and Nazareth, the Galilee Chamber Orchestra performed its annual holiday concert at Nazareth’s Industrial Park on December 22. Directed by pianist and conductor Saleem Abboud Ashkar, the Orchestra performed Mozart's Piano Concerto in D Minor and Symphony No. 40.

Polyphony was very proud to welcome back violinist and Conservatory graduate Yamen Saadi to perform Beethoven’s Romance for Violin and Orchestra No. 2 in F major as part of the evening’s festivities. Musicians included Polyphony Conservatory graduates, Polyphony faculty, and members of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Galilee Chamber Orchestra rehearses with conductor Saleem Abboud Ashkar on December 20th in Tel Aviv.

Polyphony's Partnerships

Zevulun Regional Council

The Zevulun Regional Council, located in the Haifa District between the cities of Haifa and Nazareth, is expanding its partnership with Polyphony. This year, all four of the region’s elementary schools and two high schools will participate in Alhan. Of the six schools, three are Arab and three are Jewish.

This year, the Alhan curriculum features Prokofiev’s classic narrated work, Peter and the Wolf. Local high school students in Zevulun will collaborate on a theatrical production of the piece and perform it with Polyphony’s musicians at the end of the school year for the area’s students attending Alhan’s Explained Concerts.

A recent Polyphony performance at the Regional Council in December 2018

Both Polyphony and the Zevulun Regional Council are devoted to initiatives that build an inclusive and shared Israeli society.

Jerusalem Music Academy

In a major program development, the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance partnered with Polyphony to focus on advancing the Nazareth Conservatory. Professors from the Academy regularly visit Nazareth, and the Academy's graduate students will join the Conservatory's faculty on a part-time basis.

Additionally, students from the Academy and the Conservatory come together to play chamber music throughout the year, with students from each institution traveling to and from Nazareth and Jerusalem for rehearsals. Finally, in another element of our partnership, Polyphony will host the Academy’s musicians in Nazareth for a concert in February 2019.

Keshet Eilon Music Center

The Keshet Eilon Music Center and Polyphony have developed a partnership based on the shared understanding that music and the arts have the power to transcend long-existing cultural and social boundaries between Arab and Jewish communities in Israel. Driven by this belief, both entities have created opportunities for Arab and Jewish youth to make music together while supporting and developing excellence in the field of classical music. Each Scholar-in-Residence seminar is focused on achieving those goals.

Seminar participants engaging in a team building activity in December 2018.

Organization Financials

The Polyphony Foundation is a 501c(3) tax-exempt not-for-profit based in the United States whose primary focus is providing strategic support to programs in Israel carried out by Polyphony Education, an Israeli Article 46 public institution. The Polyphony Foundation’s board of directors and staff work together with the staff and board of Polyphony Education to strengthen program activities and operations in Israel.

Polyphony Foundation

The Polyphony Foundation is generously supported by individual donors in the United States, competitive foundation grants, and ticket revenue generated from US performances.

74% of Polyphony Foundation's expenses directly support programming in Israel.

For more information on Polyphony Foundation's financials, visit our GuideStar profile.

Polyphony Education

Polyphony Education is an Israeli-based public institution headquartered in Nazareth. The organization’s four programs (Alhan, the Nazareth Conservatory, Scholar-in-Residence Seminar, and the Galilee Chamber Orchestra) and their respective activities operate throughout the country. The organization’s programs generate revenues through tuition, program fees, ticket sales, and sponsorships. Polyphony Education also receives funding from domestic donors within Israel as well as the Israeli government's Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Education.

Combined, 84% of Polyphony Education's expenses directly support programming and activities in Israel.

We couldn’t do it without each and every one of our donors, friends, and partners. We look forward to 2019 and continuing to positively impact Israeli society.

You can learn more about Polyphony by visiting our website, following us on Facebook, and signing up for our newsletter.

Polyphony Foundation is non-profit 501c(3) tax-exempt organization. Our tax identification number is 27-5559473.

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