Music for Life International's 
Za'atari String Quartet 
Brings Life Changing Music to the
 Children of Syria at Za'atari Refugee Camp




"You have nourished our spirits." It was exactly one month ago that we heard these words from one of the community leaders at Za'atari Refugee Camp in Jordan after our third and final concert of our Music for Za'atari Residency, bringing chamber music and the thrill of music education to vulnerable Syrian refugee youth and children. It was the deeply moving fulfilment of the promise made at our Shostakovich for the Children of Syria at Carnegie Hall last January to bring the power of music to the Children of Syria in person.



Thanks to you, our friends, partners, and supporters in the global Music for Life International family, we are thrilled to say that this experience far exceeded our wildest expectations. After six month of planning, Music for Life International brought a wonderful string quartet of distinguished musicians to Jordan this August:  

Mary Ann Mumm, Violin, MET Orchestra (former); Professor at John J Cali School of Music, Montclair State University,
Deborah Greitzer, Violin, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Craig Mumm, Viola, Associate Principal Viola, MET Orchestra, 
Professor, Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University,
Rosanna Butterfield, Cello, New World Symphony "America's Orchestral Academy" & Verbier Festival Orchestra, Switzerland

We have no words to thank our distinguished musicians, who put aside their time and shared their artistry with such generosity and grace to help us build new bridges of community for the future with the young people of Syria and Jordan at such a crucial moment in history of the region and indeed of the world.

We had three extraordinary concerts, each followed by exciting music instruction sessions for the Syrian refugee children and their mentors in Za'atari Camp at the campus of our amazing partner organization Questcope. You can read their impressions and report here.


During our time at Za'atari Camp, we were joined by our incredible colleague from the Jordan National Orchestra and the National Music Conservatory in Amman, Hisham Alhadrab, on oud and Arabic percussion. Our quartet (now affectionately dubbed "The Za'atari Quartet") performed a variety of music ranging from standard Western classical repertory by Haydn, Shostakovich and Borodin, to the music of modernist Syrian composer, Kareem Roustom, and beloved folk and popular music of the region. 

Mary Ann Mumm with Ahmed, 4
In educational workshops after each concert, we introduced more than twenty children to violins and the first principles of violin playing. While some of the children were discovering violins with the instruments that our Kickstarter campaign made possible, others worked on learning to read music and elements of rhythms with our other musicians. In addition to a dozen recorders, we were able to purchase three violins from our Amman instrument supplier, Musa Faza. 


Each concert ended with a communal sing-along with the entire audience of the popular Arabic song "El Helwa Di" by the beloved Egyptian composer Sayeed Darwish, hailed often as the "Mozart of the Middle East." At the first concert, a group came forward and took the lead coaching our quartet in the local nuances of this beloved song. 

Hisham Alhadrab on oud
This is music at work. Led by Questscope's extraordinary mission to create empowerment and agency for vulnerable youth who are often left with nothing, we found that music and especially joint music-making became a vehicle of enabling those who are often labelled "vulnerable and needy" to become the leaders, teachers, and hosts of our joint enterprise. In that moment of their leading us, we became part of a unique relationship with the refugee community - one where they were critical and important partners and stakeholders in our enterprise, not just the recipients of food, medical aid, shelter or even education.


Needless to say, we were completely bowled over by the warmth and enthusiasm of the response of the Syrian community at Za'atari Camp and especially by their deep appreciation of the new possibilities for opportunity and community building afforded by music. Thank you again to our partners Questscope and to the visionary support of our friends at the Tufts University Institute for Global Leadership and Parsons & Whittemore Inc. and George Landegger, Chairman. We are also deeply grateful to the 60 donors who supported our Kickstarter Campaign supporting this residency.
A spontaneous standing ovation after the Shostakovich Quartet No. 8

It is not too late for you to be part of the magic.
You can make it possible for us to continue this work.


In addition to our concerts in the Zaatari Refugee Camp, the quartet and George Mathew were part of three musical events in Amman. 

Coaching two pianists at the National Music Conservatory/King Hussein Foundation in Amman
On the first day in Jordan, the quartet had an open rehearsal attended by the young musicians of the Palestine Youth Orchestra, an annual initiative of the Edward Said Conservatory. A couple of them even joined us to play through the Shostakovich 8th quartet and the Borodin Nocturne.  


We spent a wonderful day in masterclasses with the gifted string and piano students at the National Music Conservatory in Amman, the leading Music Academy in Jordan, an initiative of the King Hussein Foundation. We also coached Conservatory's "Children's Orchestra," a beautiful orchestra of 7- to15-year olds. We are very grateful to Maestro Mohammad Sidiq, Director of the Conservatory, who made this residency possible.

Craig Mumm sat in at the back of the section led by an 8-year at the Children's Orchestra at the National Music Conservatory/King Hussein Foundation
We ended our week in Jordan with a "formal" concert of quartets by Haydn, Shostakovich, Borodin, Syrian composer Kareem Roustom and the music of Arab composers Riyad Sombouti, Sayeed Darwish, and Mohammed Sidiq, music director of the Jordanian National Orchestra, hosted by the Embassy of the United States in Jordan and US Embassy Cultural Attache Tobias Bradford at his home. A perfect ending to a truly life changing week for all of us.
Tobias Bradford, cultural attaché at the US embassy in Amman introduces Music for Life International, Questscope and the Za'atari quartet to the audience


Thank you again for joining us and the Children of Syria at Za'atari Refugee Camp on this wonderful adventure, and on a new one that may be just beginning. 


Gratefully Yours,

George Mathew
Artistic Director
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Photos from Za'atari
Deborah Greitzer introducing a young Syrian violinist to proper posture.
Craig Mumm with a newly minted violinist

Some of the Questscope mentors began teaching the younger ones after the second day!

Mary Ann Mumm with a new friend at Za'atari

George Mathew, Artistic Director, with a boy at Za'atari 
Crowdfunding Effort 125% Successful!

Thank you so very much for your extraordinary support and your generous commitment to our MUSIC FOR ZA'ATARI residency last month for the refugee children of Syria at Za'atari Refugee Camp in Jordan. At the moment when the Kickstarter campaign ended, we were already airborne and enroute to Jordan. Imagine how thrilled we were to find out on landing in Amman, Jordan that the campaign had exceeded our original $5000 goal by more than 25%!

Learn More about Music for Za'atari 

Music in Za'atari
by Ricky O'Bannon

We are honored that the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra ran an article by their staff writer Ricky O'Bannon about our Music For The Children of Za'atari Project on their website. Full story on

music for life international, inc. (MFLI) was created to conceive and present musical concerts and related events to promote the awareness of significant international humanitarian crises and other public interest issues in the United States and throughout the world. MFLI takes its name from the legendary MUSIC FOR LIFE concert led by Leonard Bernstein at Carnegie Hall in 1987.

MFLI is a registered 501(c)(3) tax-exempt not-for-profit organization.