It happened in 2006, in the Persian Gulf, in the American Embassy in Bahrain. During a concert of the Sapphire Trio, an American chamber music group who were invited to perform as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. State Department. The tour covered Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It was at a time in the middle of the Gulf war. The State Department was interested in bringing an American music group to the region.
Just before, a New Orleans jazz band was there...right after Katrina. Bahrain donated 2 million dollars to New Orleans in relief funds after that, realizing that something important was happening there that needed to be saved. American Jazz. The Sapphire Trio arrived and during the first day, performed with the Qatar National Symphony in an informal "jam session" of classical American Music and Arabic music.
It was then a string bass player in the symphony pulled members of the trio aside and showed a beheading...done by American troops...so he said. Later we were to discover it was a propaganda video of a woman journalist who was killed by Saddam's troops because she was reporting the atrocities of his regime. The Sapphire trio were whisked away...in armored cars for the rest of the tour.
Performing for schools, all women's concerts in Saudi Arabia..a very illegal and secret event, playing for Embassy officials and invited guests, performing for Arabic university students...who, for the first time sat together in the presentations, next to each other...men and women. It was groundbreaking.
Then, in our last concert, is a packed Embassy room, we had the typical audience. Embassy officials, community members...and...an offical "minder", a man in a thobe, with arms crossed in disgust, suspicion and anger. "Why are women playing, why this American Music?" Then...as he listened...heard Gershwin, Peter Schickele, jazz, and even some music that sounded familiar-Alexandar Aruitunian, Ohio composer Rick Sowash and a host of other works including tangos...he had a fantastic change of heart...he was no longer angry, suspicious, disgusted.
Then he did something that was not only noticed by the room full of officials, Royal family members, etc. As the U.S. Ambassador passed by after the concert...he grabbed the Ambassador's tie...pulled him down to meet face to face (the "minder" was seated) and said..."Why not send Americans to our region like these people, This is what we need to see and hear! Not more Marines and bloodshed!"
This event was so powerful, it resonated across the Persian Gulf region (broadcasts and reports even found their way across the Gulf to Iran). The U.S.Embassy report to the White House detailed this story as well as many others from the Sapphire Trio visit entitled "American Women in the Arts" was placed on the desk of Condoleezza Rice and George Bush. Since that time the Sapphire Trio has provided service, concerts, peaceful interactions in Palestine each spring. Peace, one musical phrase at a time, one meal with strangers, one violin lesson with a child...Music can save the world...no doubt.
Maxine Ramey, Clarinet
Margaret Baldridge, Violin
Jody Graves, Piano
The Sapphire Trio, The University of Montana and Eastern Washinton University