Yale Concert Band to perform for refugees in Athens

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Thomas Duffy says the Yale Concert Band has "adopted the concept of using music as a social force" on its international tours. (Photo by Michael Marsland)

When the Yale Concert Band tours Greece next month, it will spend an hour in Athens playing music for people who face an uncertain future after risking their lives to reach Europe.

The undergraduate band will perform at the Eleonas refugee camp, a 10-acre facility in central Athens that houses about 1,500 asylum-seekers from Afghanistan, Syria, and other war-torn countries.

“The concert band is committed to bringing its music to all people and is grateful and humbled for the opportunity to perform at the Eleonas camp,” said Thomas Duffy, director of university bands. “Its residents should not be denied the pleasure of hearing great music, and we hope that our performance will provide them some solace amid the hardships they are enduring.”

The concert band will embark on a nine-day tour of Italy and Greece on May 24. It will visit the refugee camp on Wednesday, June 1. It is the band’s 27th international tour and the 17th under Duffy’s direction.

Duffy said that the tours over the past 15 years have taken on a social component in addition to being cultural explorations.

“In addition to playing great concert band music, we’ve also adopted the concept of using music as a social force,” Duffy said. “We genuinely want to create some kind of reciprocal arrangement with whatever culture we visit. Everybody deserves kindness, love, and music.”

The band has performed in a barrio in Mexico and in a township outside Cape Town, South Africa, where they also did service work. In 2014, the band travelled to Ghana for 12 days of cultural exchange that included a joint concert with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ghana to launch the Ghana-Yale Partnership for Global Health.

In addition to performing at the camp, which is the lone facility established by the Greek government to process migrants and refugees, the band is raising funds to contribute to the purchase of food, clothing, and other basic needs for the camp’s residents. Duffy is also considering providing residents something to commemorate the visit, such as T-shirts.

“We’d like to leave behind a memento of some sort to let them know that Americans care about them and are concerned about their plight,” he said.

To make a contribution to assist camp residents, contact Duffy at thomas.c.duffy@yale.edu.

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Mike Cummings: michael.cummings@yale.edu, 203-432-9548