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Singing for Syria

Fairfield Native Brings Music to Refugees



›› This June, Fairfield-native and Fairfield High School graduate Dylan Connor found himself at the home of a family of Syrian refugees in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli. He and some 30 other volunteers working with children displaced by the Syrian Civil War at the nearby Al Salam School crammed into the family’s small apartment where dozens of large platters of spiced meat, rice, stuffed squash, eggplant, hummus and other Syrian dishes covered nearly every inch of the floor, a symbol of gratitude from the mother of one of their students.

It was a quiet, breezy night in Reyhanli, and after the meal the group stepped out onto the porch as the woman read from a book of poetry, words inspired by the bloody revolution that has ravaged Syria for over three years, claiming some 200,000 lives and forcing millions to flee from their homeland. The woman’s son, missing a leg from an explosion set off during the fighting, began to sing along.

“He had this voice full of pain,” recalls the 39-year-old Connor, who traveled to Turkey with the charity foundation Karam (“generosity”
in Arabic) in order to give music lessons to the children at Al Salam. “People who are trying to make it in music, they try to instill their voice with that kind of emotion, but his voice was just so pure. I really felt like at that moment I was in the land of the revolution.”

In recent years, Connor’s voice has emerged as one of the clearest reminders of the pain that grips Syria under the control of President Bashar al-Assad. A high school Latin teacher and a singer/songwriter popular around the Fairfield county club and coffee shop scene, he started writing topical songs in support of the revolution after his Syrian wife’s parents fled their home in Damascus and began living with him in Stratford. His album, Blood Like Fire (Songs for Syria), has turned Connor into something of a celebrity in the war-torn country. Local television stations broadcast his music videos and his face has even appeared on stamps for the revolution. The expedition this summer with Karam marked his first trip back to the region since the fighting broke out.

“One of the things I was really struck by was that here I was in Turkey, but I felt like I was in Syria,” says Connor. “The feeling of the air, the feeling of the climate, the food was being cooked by Syrian vendors….It was like I was back in touch with this place I had been writing about for the last few years.”

Connor’s dinner hosts in Reyhanli were one of the more fortunate Syrian families he met during his week-long stay on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, however. The father is a soldier with the Free Syrian Army and is able to send enough money across the border each month for his wife and children to rent their small flat. But those who are lucky enough to make it out of the squalid refugee camps and over the Syrian-Turkish border are often forced to live in makeshift tents or under the shield of blasted rubble, wherever crevices of space still exist.

“Some of the kids, most of them, have lost one or both parents,” says Connor. “They’re living in terrible, terrible conditions.”

So Connor, along with a diverse group of photographers, basketball coaches, boxing instructors, architects and authors hailing from countries across the globe, set out to give the boys and girls of Al Salam School a semblance of a normal life despite the surrounding destruction.

“Music wasn’t the point,” he explains. “The point was that all of us came from different parts of the world because we care about them. And that’s powerful. It made them feel loved and gave them a smile. It gave them hope that they’re not forgotten.”

On the first day at Al Salam it became apparent that the classrooms were too cramped to fit Connor, his guitar, and 20-30 eager children, so the group made their way to the school’s roof. Connor taught the basics of music, encouraging them to sing along with him and keep the beat using egg shakers and rhythm sticks. The experience was equally transformative for Connor, who plans to tour U.S. colleges this fall raising awareness for Syria through the narrative of his own personal journey. “Working with these kids, seeing their smiles, engaging, being in this other part of the world. It was something I can’t even explain.”

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October 2017

Join the 11th Annual CancerCare Fairfield Walk/Run for Hope at Jennings Beach, 880 South Benson Road in Fairfield, Connecticut, Sunday, October 15, 2017. Walk or run to celebrate survivors, support...

Cost: $35-40 for Adults

Where:
Jennings Beach
880 South Benson Rd
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Sponsor: CancerCare
Telephone: 212-712-6165
Contact Name: Erica Lebensberg
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Greenwich Point Park
Tod's Driftway
Old Greenwich, CT  06870
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Sponsor: Abilis
Telephone: 203-531-1880
Contact Name: Erica Klair
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Cost: FREE

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Old Town Hall Green
611 Old Post Road
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Sponsor: Fairfield Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 203-255-1011
Contact Name: Krista McCormack
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Cost: Free

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Southport, CT  06890
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Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346 ext.115
Contact Name: Front Desk
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Cost: $20 in advance; $25 at the door; students, free.

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Sponsor: Music on the Hill
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Sponsor: Canfin Gallery
Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
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Pequot Library
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Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203- 831-9063
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Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
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Sponsor: Bruce Museum
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Cost: free

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Canfin Gallery
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View map »


Sponsor: Canfin Gallery
Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
Website »

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Cost: See details for each program

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
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Stamford, CT  06905
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Sponsor: SilverSource
Telephone: 203-273-2218
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Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06897
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Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203- 831-9063
Contact Name: maritime garage gallery
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Cost: $10 adult,$8 senior/student, under 5 and member free. Free on Tuesdays to all

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
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View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Website »

More information

The arrival of the recent works of Jylian GUSTLIN is always a joyous affair. One can rely not only on a definitive maturation, as evidenced in her new and beautifully rendered works,  but by...

Cost: free

Where:
Canfin Gallery
39 Main Street
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View map »


Sponsor: Canfin Gallery
Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
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More information

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Cost: See details for each program

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346 ext.115
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
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Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203- 831-9063
Contact Name: maritime garage gallery
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Sponsor: Bruce Museum
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Cost: free

Where:
Canfin Gallery
39 Main Street
Tarrytown, NY  10591
View map »


Sponsor: Canfin Gallery
Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
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More information

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Cost: See details for each program

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346 ext.115
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

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Cost: FREE

Where:
Bellarmine Hall
Fairfield University
1073 North Benson Road
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Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
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View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203- 831-9063
Contact Name: maritime garage gallery
Website »

More information

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Cost: $10 adult,$8 senior/student, under 5 and member free. Free on Tuesdays to all

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
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View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

Where:
Canfin Gallery
39 Main Street
Tarrytown, NY  10591
View map »


Sponsor: Canfin Gallery
Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
Website »

More information

A weeklong celebration of art with programs for all ages and fine art for sale. Related Programming: Saturday, October 14 - Sunday, October 22: Green Art Show Sunday, October 15: Gallery Talk...

Cost: See details for each program

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346 ext.115
Contact Name: Front Desk
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Cost: $25

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The Westport Inn
1595 Post Road East
Westport, CT  06880
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Sponsor: Star 99.9
Contact Name: Steve Soyland
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Favorite memories, reminders and images of home are on display at the City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery. “Memories Of Our Town,” features art in a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203- 831-9063
Contact Name: maritime garage gallery
Website »

More information

Nikon Small World  exhibition runs July 29 - October 29, 2017 at Bruce Museum This exhibit showcases the top 20 award-winning photographs of the 42nd annual Nikon Small World...

Cost: $10 adult,$8 senior/student, under 5 and member free. Free on Tuesdays to all

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Website »

More information

The arrival of the recent works of Jylian GUSTLIN is always a joyous affair. One can rely not only on a definitive maturation, as evidenced in her new and beautifully rendered works,  but by...

Cost: free

Where:
Canfin Gallery
39 Main Street
Tarrytown, NY  10591
View map »


Sponsor: Canfin Gallery
Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
Website »

More information

A weeklong celebration of art with programs for all ages and fine art for sale. Related Programming: Saturday, October 14 - Sunday, October 22: Green Art Show Sunday, October 15: Gallery Talk...

Cost: See details for each program

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346 ext.115
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The arrival of the recent works of Jylian GUSTLIN is always a joyous affair. One can rely not only on a definitive maturation, as evidenced in her new and beautifully rendered works,  but by...

Cost: free

Where:
Canfin Gallery
39 Main Street
Tarrytown, NY  10591
View map »


Sponsor: Canfin Gallery
Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
Website »

More information

A weeklong celebration of art with programs for all ages and fine art for sale. Related Programming: Saturday, October 14 - Sunday, October 22: Green Art Show Sunday, October 15: Gallery Talk...

Cost: See details for each program

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346 ext.115
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road, Wilton
Wilton, CT  06897
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Telephone: 203-762-3950
Website »

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