Counterstream Radio
New Music Streaming 24/7
New Music Playlists
Browse Music, Video, Interviews and more.

Music for Refugees in Providence RI

Syrian composer residency engages Syria’s culture, civil war and refugee crisis, creating a musical home for R.I.’s refugee community.


In February 2019, CMW hosted Syrian composer and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh for a week-long residency in collaboration with Dorcas International, designed to engage the Syrian and middle-eastern refugee community in Providence. In a few short days, through performances and workshops, refugees in Providence had opportunities to connect to sounds of their home countries and feel part of a cultural community. As one participant commented, “We have not felt this way in a long time.”

This project will create continued opportunities for joint experiences of music-making, as we help new Americans become part of the Rhode Island community. From September 2020 to May 2021, Music for Refugees will build community through two music sharing events, culminating in a third more formal food and music gathering featuring Middle-Eastern food, music and musicians.

Each of the two music sharing events, hosted at Dorcas International or in a private home, will bring together members of the refugee community with Syrian-American composer Kareem Roustom and CMW musicians to exchange musical inspiration and find common ground. Through these events, we will identify key partners to host an informal open mic session at the culminating event.

Kareem Roustom will create a new 18-20 minute work for string orchestra, harvested from the collective memories of the newly resettled refugee community, developed through workshops and interactions throughout the year as participants contribute, stone-soup-style, to a musical mix (“this is a song that I learned in school”… “we used to dance this at weddings”). Repertoire will also include Roustom’s arrangements of Iraqi folk songs, and the third movement of his A Voice Exclaiming string quartet, Dabké, which draws from the rhythms of a traditional middle-eastern wedding dance.

The works will be performed by CMW’s resident professional string ensemble, the MusicWorks Collective, along with guest artists, including Iraqi and Syrian vocalists whom CMW met through the 2019 project. Following the formal performance, audience members will be invited to join in an open mic session, with CMW professional resident musicians, CMW advanced teen students, and musicians and vocalists from the refugee community. The culminating performance and open mic will take place at a community center in the heart of Providence’s West End.

The project will bring together Dorcas International’s community of refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Iran with Providence residents, including CMW’s population of Latino and African-American students and families, and our broader Rhode Island audiences. Currently there are 168 Syrian, 242 Iraqi, and 34 Iranian refugees who have been resettled in Rhode Island, among 3,000 refugees who have come to the state since 2002. Building on relationships established through our February 2019 residency, the project will engage refugees around music that evokes their home culture, and enable them to build connect to new neighbors through music.

Dorcas International will partner with CMW to promote the gatherings to Syrian and middle-eastern refugees, including those who participated in the 2019 events. Music sharing events will be scheduled to coincide with Dorcas International events where possible to build participation and increase synergy.

Start and End Dates



Providence, Rhode Island

Project Created By

Providence, Rhode Island
Founded in 1997, CMW is a “revolutionary organization” (The New Yorker) that creates cohesive community through music education and performance that transforms the lives of children, families, and musicians in underserved neighborhoods of Providence, RI. Central to this mission are CMW’s thirteen salaried professional musicians-in-residence, who lead CMW’s education program and perform in community center…

In Collaboration With

Boston, Massachusetts


Leave a Reply