The best music education is global. We need new pathways for students from the Arab world to benefit.

25 January 2021

by Fady Jameel, Samih Sawiris and Colin Lawson 

Art is a vital release – never more so than during times such as this. The ability to create, enjoy and experience art when the world can appear daunting is priceless, and offers a place for our minds to escape when we can feel burdened by what is around us. During the current pandemic, we are reminded of the importance of art: it teaches us responsibility; it emboldens our curiosity; it demands our creativity; and it focuses our positivity.

However, while the desire to enjoy art exists in all of us, the distribution of, and access to, an education in the arts is not equal. More must be done to reach those who are otherwise cut off from the arts, more must be done to help the most talented from all communities fulfil their potential. It is fundamental to the work of both Community Jameel and the Sawiris Foundation.

World-class music education should be available to anyone with the talent to succeed, regardless of their background or personal circumstances. Throughout its history, the Royal College of Music (RCM) in London has upheld this ethos - welcoming, nurturing and training the best and most promising talent from around the globe.

After almost 140 years of existence the Royal College of Music remains true to its founding fathers’ vision of access, excellence and advocacy. At the opening of the College in 1883, HRH The Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) was especially proud of the new scholarships programme, emphasising its commitment to gender equality, while observing that a mill girl, the daughter of a brickmaker, and the son of a blacksmith, all took high places in singing.

Today’s programme of student support continues this great tradition, now extending to half of the student cohort, thanks to generations of supportive philanthropists. Our commitment to inclusion has helped to see us ranked as the top institution for Performing Arts education in the UK for five consecutive years (and No. 1 in Europe for 2020) – the then Prince of Wales would surely draw satisfaction from the fact that our culturally diverse student population now comes from nearly sixty nationalities. Geography and financial means should never be a barrier to achieving musical excellence.

The College will continue its mission of training the finest musicians from around the world; advancing music education, performance and research through global collaborations. It is vital that the most talented British and international students continue to have access to the world-class training that conservatoires and other specialist institutions provide. Without this unparalleled education there is a serious threat to the longevity and quality of the creative industries in the UK and beyond.

It is a dream for aspiring artists and musicians around the world to study at the Royal College of Music, but sometimes the artists need help in getting there. It is so important that those with the dedication and ambition to succeed at RCM are provided with an equal and fair pathway.

This is why Community Jameel and the Sawiris Foundation have both partnered with the College, to ensure that aspiring artists can see that pathway in front of them.

Sawiris Foundation has always prided itself on ensuring that quality education, both traditional and non-traditional, is accessible to everyone; ensuring that all students have access to an inclusive environment to learn. The Sawiris Arts and Culture Scholarship (SACS), open to Egyptian nationals residing in Egypt, provides an opportunity for talented artists to enrich and broaden their talents.

Art has a crucial role in any flourishing society. This is why the SACS is targeted at those who are socially engaged and highly motivated in the field of arts and culture. Ultimately our aim is to nurture artists who will enhance the artistic scene in their native societies. It is partly for that reason that the Sawiris Foundation is equally proud to support the Sawiris Cultural Award, an annual Egyptian literary prize that has been ongoing for the past 15 years.

Students from Egypt - indeed from anywhere in the Arab region and beyond - should have the opportunity to study anywhere in the world, including the Royal College of Music, irrespective of financial means.

This conviction is similarly held by Community Jameel, an international organisation that, as part of its mission, supports access to quality education for all. Whether through firing innovations in education technology and pedagogy at the Jameel World Education Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or through a collaboration with Save the Children to strengthen psychosocial support to educators teaching Syrian refugee children in Jordan, Community Jameel is committed to learning – including music.

With Community Jameel’s track-record of collaborating with global educational institutions, when it came to finding a partner to promote music education worldwide, the Royal College of Music was a natural choice. In 2019, Community Jameel and the Andrea Bocelli Foundation (of the world-famous tenor, Andrea Bocelli) established the Bocelli-Jameel Scholarship, primarily for international vocal students, and awarded on merit and need. The Scholarship is designed to open the door to up-and-coming international singers to join the College by supporting students full-time, thus helping them overcome barriers and access world-class training. On December 12, 2020, the first Bocelli-Jameel Scholar, the soprano Clara Barbier Serrano, performed a duet with Andrea Bocelli himself in the Teatro Regio di Parma in Italy.

Now more than ever we are reminded that music and art is a language that has the power to transcend borders. We are inspired to look beyond the current uncertainty of the current time and focus on the long-term potential of investment in the arts; to celebrate and build upon our connectivity with the rest of the world; to strengthen international partnerships and create opportunities for meaningful cultural exchange.

Fady Jameel is Vice Chairman of Community Jameel, and the Founder and Chairman of Art Jameel. Eng. Samih Sawiris is Founder and Board Member of Sawiris Foundation for Social Development, and Patron of the Sawiris Foundation Scholarship for Arts and Culture. Professor Colin Lawson CBE is Director of the Royal College of Music in London (rcm.ac.uk), a leading period clarinettist of international renown and published author.

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