Road Stories Blog

Arrival in Des Moines

Ensemble posing in hotel lobby

By Shigeyo Henriquez

Almost one week has past since the biggest earthquake, the 40’ tsunami and the nuclear disaster horrified not only people in Japan, but throughout the world. Agatsuma Ensemble, leaving their families and friends at home, arrived in Des Moines as scheduled while the country still tremors.

Help us raise $5,000 for relief efforts in Japan

Help us raise $5,000 for relief efforts in Japan

By Arts Midwest

Arts Midwest has long been a supporter of cultural exchange between the United States and Japan. This year, our Arts Midwest World Fest tour of the Japanese Agatsuma Ensemble coincides with the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

We encourage you—our friends, families, donors, and partners—to make a contribution to the relief effort. All donations will go directly to the American Red Cross.

Todah and Shalom

Woman walking along a curved path into the sunset.

By Lindajoy Fenley

The Israeli Ethnic Ensemble began most of their workshops this year teaching students two words in Hebrew—Shalom, a word meaning hello, goodbye and peace, and todah, thank you.

The Joy of the Sabbath

By Lindajoy Fenley

One morning at breakfast at our hotel, Wes Anderson, curator at the Barnes County Historical Museum, mentioned that a local Jewish immigrant had once tried to create a New Israel in North Dakota. Believing few Jews live in the region, I found Anderson’s comment intriguing.

Sefi’s slogan: ‘Let’s party’

Sefi displays his oud, a stringed instrument with a round back.

By Lindajoy Fenley

“Would you like a Greek party? … a Balkan party? … a Middle Eastern party?”

Midwestern children at the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble’s workshops shout “yes” as Sefi Asfuri Hirsh picks up his bouzouki with intricate mother of pearl inlay for Greek sounding music and Talya Solan sings Hebrew lyrics.

Fun at final workshops

Smiling musicians give a thumbs up.

By Lindajoy Fenley

When I heard a Jefferson school third grader listening to the ensemble’s sound check say their music sounded both Egyptian and Indian, I knew the last workshop of the tour was going to be good. The kids were primed for it and so was the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble. The only thing left on the ensemble’s itinerary were two classroom conversations at Valley City State University, a short musical presentation at the Sheyenne Care Center on Friday, and their final concert on Saturday, Nov. 13.

Reaching out to everyman

Workshop in a high school gymnasium.

By Lindajoy Fenley

We drove nearly an hour over straight prairie roads to give workshops to high 70 high schoolers in the small town of Marion and later to about the same number of elementary students at Litchville Elementary. This small North Dakotan school district with dwindling enrollment draws students from a 400-square-mile area.

Appreciative high schoolers were shy about asking questions but as soon as the workshop ended, they told their choir teacher they’d like to get a bus for Saturday because so many of them want to go to the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble’s concert at Valley City State University.

Successful Q&As

Band teacher directs a room full of students with instruments and music stands.

By Lindajoy Fenley

Valley City students filling the auditorium twice Monday morning asked the same well-worn questions the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble has heard for the past month: How long have you played? When did you form the band? What is the most difficult instrument to play?

But things got interesting after Yonnie Dror turned the tables on them in the band class that followed lunch.

Exploring visual arts

Theater marquee announces Israeli Ethnic Ensemble concert on Nov. 6th.

By Lindajoy Fenley

There is much to report about rich experiences in world of visual arts last week as South Dakotans responded to the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble’s musical gifts with plastic arts, ranging from opportunities to work with crafts to an invitation into the studio of a nationally acclaimed sculptor.

Too young; too old; just right

Yonnie stands in the parking lot of local radio station building.

By Lindajoy Fenley

Sometimes World Fest residencies feel a little like Goldilocks’ experience with the Three Bears. After giving workshops for kindergartners through sixth graders at six Aberdeen schools, the ensemble performed for two groups of senior citizens. Finally they found a coffee house frequented by people their own age.