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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published January 28 2012

Program offers music lessons to local refugee families

FARGO - Iraq native Luma Alobeidy always dreamed of playing a musical instrument, but she never got the chance.

Now she is all the more grateful for a music program that’s giving her two daughters the opportunity to learn the violin and piano.

“This is a gift from God,” said Alobeidy, whose family has lived in Fargo for three years. “I say I’m so lucky.”

Together Integrating Everyone, a program founded by Concordia College graduate Danielle Hance, gives local refugee families access to music lessons.

The program provides each student with a donated instrument and a music instructor. If families are able, they pay $2 for lessons to help fund instrument repairs and other expenses.

Concordia music education major Sadie Ellingson is volunteering to teach Alobeidy’s 12-year-old daughter, Jwan Al Selim, to play the violin.

“I think music should be given to everyone no matter the financial restraints,” said Ellingson, 21, of Fargo. “Everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy music, but music lessons are so expensive sometimes.”

Jwan, a sixth-grader at West Fargo’s Cheney Middle School, started playing the violin in August, but already she is advanced among her peers in the school orchestra.

“I think it’s fun and I think I’m doing pretty well,” Jwan said.

Ellingson said Jwan practices a lot and is always well-prepared for her lessons.

“Because she’s been given this opportunity that she wouldn’t have otherwise, I think she cherishes it more,” Ellingson said.

Jwan’s 9-year-old sister, Lara Al Selim, is taking piano lessons from Hance.

The family worried that Lara’s wish to learn the piano may not be realistic, but the program was able to move a donated piano into their Fargo apartment.

Now Lara, a fourth-grader at Eastwood Elementary in West Fargo, is writing an original song when she’s not practicing for her lessons.

Alobeidy said she enjoys when her daughters play their instruments together.

“It makes me so happy and proud,” she said.

The Together Integrating Everyone program, a ministry of Fargo’s Salem Evangelical Free Church, has been operating for three years as a way to integrate refugee families into the community, Hance said.

The program has five volunteer instructors. There’s a waiting list of about 10 students and a need for additional instructors.

Hance, 26, is a writer for Concordia and coordinates this program in her spare time. Her condo and garage are full of donated instruments and music.

Piano, violin and guitar are popular instrument choices for the students.

“A lot of these kids will be interested in taking just about anything,” Hance said.

For Ellingson, participating in the program made her realize she wants to make an effort to include all students after she becomes a music teacher.

“It’s been a real blessing for me and an eye-opener to see how much music can affect someone’s life,” Ellingson said.

How to help

The Together Integrating Everyone program is accepting donations of instruments, music and money for repairs. The program also needs music instructors. Contact Danielle Hance at tieministry@gmail.com or (701) 240-1131.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590