Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pittsburgh to Tehran People-to-People Connections Can Build Understanding

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pittsburgh to Tehran People-to-People Connections Can Build Understanding

Article excerpt

Last month, we at the American Middle East Institute, headquartered in Pittsburgh, hosted at our seventh annual conference several distinguished visitors and government officials from the Middle East to explore business, educational and cultural connections with their American counterparts. Speakers hailed from the Sultanate of Oman, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and, for the first time, Iran.

The Iranian deputy minister of culture and Islamic guidance for art affairs, Ali Moradkhani, accepted our invitation to come to Pittsburgh with three of his colleagues to explore avenues of cultural exchange, in this case musical groups originating from Carnegie Mellon University's new Center for Iranian Music.

Due to the 35-year diplomatic estrangement between the United States and Iran, government officials from Iran are generally not allowed to travel outside a 25-mile radius of New York, where Iranian officials are permitted to attend meetings of the U.N. General Assembly.

We had originally hoped to work with Mr. Moradkhani to take the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra to Iran in a breakthrough concert this fall. The idea was that the PSO and an Iranian orchestra, either the Iran National Orchestra or Tehran Symphony, would appear together onstage in Iran in a people-to-people expression of the universal language of music. The PSO last performed in Tehran in late 1964, 50 years ago, and this kind of joint performance would be inspirational and path-breaking. Although this particular project may be on hold indefinitely, we are undeterred in our quest to see an American orchestra perform in Iran.

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When I traveled to Iran earlier this year to explore the orchestra project, I found representatives of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's new centrist cabinet keen to develop cultural partnerships and collaboration with the West. They struck me as open-minded people with whom the United States can find much in common. …

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