If anything can bring the Jews and Palestinians together it’s music, says U.S. pianist Marvin Goldstein, who has been testing out his theory.
The Florida native, who will entertain at the Red Deer College Arts Centre on Saturday, Sept. 19, regularly performs in Israel with guest singers and musicians from both sides of the Jewish-Palestinian divide.
His audience at one concert, southeast of Haifa, was also evenly split between the two sides, he recalled. “There were 400 Jews and 400 Arabs . . . and there was no difficulty whatsoever.”
Goldstein believes both cultures were so thrilled to hear music from their respective heritages being played that a peaceful spirit prevailed, just as it has at other concerts sponsored by his Peace Through Music Foundation.
He’s so sure music has the power to overcome that Goldstein said he has a tentative appointment set to discuss the concept with U.S. President Barack Obama. “I want to talk about how we can create a more friendly world through the arts.” If music can soothe tensions in the Middle East, why couldn’t it help bridge differences between blacks and whites, or any other cultural or racial groups?
Goldstein likes to repeat one of his favourite quotes: “Music is not the icing on the cake, it is the cake,” and disagrees with all the spending cuts to arts and music programs that are being made at this recessionary time.
“This is when people need the arts more than ever,” said the pianist, who understands pluralism and prejudice from personal experience.
The 59-year-old was raised in the Jewish faith, but married a Presbyterian woman, who later converted to the Mormon religion. “They had to gag and tie me to take me to church the first time. The Jews don’t join churches,” Goldstein recalled with a laugh.
But Goldstein discovered after attending services over four years that the Mormon faith doesn’t conflict with his Jewish beliefs. “They believe everything that the Jews were ever taught.”
He decided to become a Mormon in 1985, after realizing he wouldn’t have to give up being a Jew in the process. “If I did, I wouldn’t have done it.” Nonetheless, he said it took one of his uncles about 20 years to be able to look him in the eye.
Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe in the same God — prejudice between the groups “is all based on a lack of knowledge and fear of change,” added Goldstein, who believes working with young people is the best way to stamp it out.
That’s why he financially supports the Kiryat Tiv’on kindergarten in the Haifa district, which accepts both Jewish and Palestinian kids.
“These three-, four-year-old children learn each other’s languages and cultures, and they learn to love each other. That’s the key to peace.”
In Red Deer, Goldstein will perform a selection of Broadway, jazz, rag-time and inspirational music. He will be joined by local singers.
Tickets to the 2 p.m. concert are $5 from Ticketmaster.