Monday began with an initial meeting with the Rimon administration and faculty.  We reviewed our longstanding partnership and addressed issues around curriculum transfer and student recruitment.  There is apparently a surge of interest in Rimon’s songwriting program with 150 students currently enrolled.  The program is taught by some of the best known songwriters in Israel and some of the graduates of this program have already gone on to successful careers.  We held an information session in the afternoon, reviewing the application process and answering questions regarding the audition and interview.

Tuesday – a visit from the cultural attaché in the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, Donna Woolf, who it turns out was a film producer in a former life with a keen interest in the arts.  We introduced her to Berklee and our partner school Rimon, explained our mission and mandate to expand our international reach to the middle east and our upcoming trip to Ramallah and Jordan.  She offered to introduce us to her counterpart in East Jerusalem in assisting with the U.S. visa application for admitted students coming from Ramallah.  We also discussed her utilizing students from Rimon as musical entertainment for events held at the embassy.  Greg and Dave each presented a clinic to Rimon students in the morning and afternoon.

Wednesday – Our first day of auditions.  No surprise at the level of musicianship demonstrated.  We have a long history of finding exceptionally gifted candidates for admission in Israel and this year is no different.  Many of those auditioning are in the army with a year or two remaining before they can begin their studies.  Some of the younger candidates were interested in the 5 week Summer Jazz Workshop.

Thursday – Our second day of auditions.  A very high show rate for the auditions overall with very few spaces available for late adds.  Rimon was visited by Dr. Ernst Langner from Hamburg, Germany.  Dr. Langner is interested in developing the jazz program at the Hamburg Conservatory and inquired as to whether Berklee would consider some involvement in the project, perhaps sending clinicians in the future.

Friday – Visit to the American International School, a beautiful campus just outside of Tel Aviv with a small music program and beautiful auditorium.  They were very excited to have Berklee visit and we discussed the possibility of a one day clinic next year with Berklee and Rimon faculty.  This is a private school that serves corporate and diplomatic families in the region.

Saturday – we left early in the morning and traveled into Jerusalem to visit the Edward Said National Conservatory, meeting with the general director, Suhail Khoury.  We were then transported by van into Ramallah to visit the conservatory branch there, where we auditioned and interviewed 9 students.  After lunch, we presented a clinic and information session to the conservatory students and faculty.  This was followed in the evening by a recital of Arabic music after which we were transported across the Israeli border to meet our driver.

Sunday – we flew to Amman, Jordan to begin our visit to the National Conservatory.

Monday – A clinic with the army band followed by a meeting with college-evel students, most of whom were interested in auditioning and interviewing.  We learned that Jordan uses the British Associated Board grades 1 – 8.  Most musicians are classically trained and many are also involved in Arabic music also.

Tuesday – Dave and Myra joined Chris Halaby on a visit to Petra.  Greg and I returned to the conservatory to attend some classes.  We also had an opportunity to hear 4 gifted students, ages 13, 14, and 16, each naturally gifted and playing at a superior level.

Wednesday – a visit to the Kings Academy in the morning, a private college prep school built by King Abdullah and based upon his experience at Deerfield Academy in the U.S.  Four of the students attending King’s Academy will be auditioning with us later in the day.  This is a boarding school that opened in 2007 with state of the art facilities and an enrollment of 400 (planning to grow to 600).  We offered a one-day visit next year to meet with their music students and faculty and provide clinics and an info session.  The headmaster here, Dr. Eric Widmer will be retiring this year and they are selecting his replacement in the coming weeks.  We return to the conservatory to begin auditions scheduled for 11:30 to 7PM followed by a 7:30 PM concert of Arabic music.

Thursday – Our second day of auditions scheduled from 10AM to 7:00PM.  We are enjoying a mixture of candidates playing classical, Arabic, and one rock guitarist.

This recruitment trip has been an eye-opening experience for all of us, one that reinforces the belief that music speaks across all cultural differences and is a powerful binding force that transcends language and other barriers that may otherwise limit our ability to communicate and share our common experiences.

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