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My the Band Play On

Author: Jim McGovern

Date: Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Peace Drums Steel Band Comes to Philadelphia

There were about 20 of them. Muslim, Jewish and Christian middle school kids from the Galilee region of Israel. They call themselves the Peace Drums Steel Band and their mission is to promote reconciliation and peace among its members and among Jews and Palestinians. 

The dream/idea came from a group of clergy from the state of Delaware who, in 2011 had met to exchange views regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. So happens that the great state of Delaware had a professor named Harvey Price who had formed steel bands back in 2007 with Jewish Ethiopian youth. They eagerly adopted his model and his leadership and were off to do the fund raising part of the project. They were successful in the endeavor and the band now has 20 members, two $40,000 set of drums, and two local teachers to work with them.

The massive and magnificent Rodeph Shalom Synagogue at Broad and Green – right in the heart of downtown Philadelphia is where tonight’s final show of the whirlwind 8-day tour took place. The tour took them from the Catskill Mountains, to the University of Delaware, to New York City and to Philly’s City Hall.

Funny how watching a talented, hard-working bunch of kids playing their hearts out can get the emotions moving. One of the kids in the front row looked a little like me when I was that age – some 50 plus years ago. Then there was a short guy who played the hell out of this wild Egyptian guitar/cello instrument who resembled my niece when she was that age. I guess that’s kind of a good thing to experience similarities among people at a place and event glorifying togetherness and unity. I think of the one girl saying how her parents are now friendly with the parents of a fellow band member – and she never thought that could have happened!

So the band goes home tomorrow. I’d wished they had a little meet’n’greet after the show but they must be on a really tight schedule. I’ll doubtless think a bit differently next time I hear a steel drum band. Maybe I’ll even go out of my way some time to go and see one.

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