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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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March 2017

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Website »

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View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum and Culturespaces
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Website »

More information

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View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
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Sponsor: The Smithy Store
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Website »

More information

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Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203 869 0376
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SilverSource – a leader in advocating for the needs of older adults and their families– announced today that it is now accepting nominations for the 2017 SilverSource Awards.  The...

Cost: FREE

Where:
SilverSource
2009 Summer Street
Stamford, CT  06905
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Sponsor: SilverSource
Telephone: 203-324-6584
Contact Name: Linda Christensen
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Join talented artist and New Pond Farm member, Chanel Dupare, as she shares this traditional Ukrainian craft. Using a wax-resist dyeing method you will learn this delicate meditative art of Pysanky...

Cost: $15 per New Pond Farm Member, $20 per non-member

Where:
New Pond Farm Education Center
101 Marchant Road
Redding, CT  06896
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Telephone: (203) 938-2117
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Saturday April 1, 2:30 – 4:30 p.m. 
  Join talented artist and NPF member, Chanel Dupare, as she shares this traditional Ukrainian craft. Using a wax resist
dyeing method you will learn...

Cost: $15 per New Pond Farm Member child, $20 per non-member child

Where:
New Pond Farm Education Center
101 Marchant Road
Redding, CT  06896
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Telephone: (203) 938-2117
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Through Our Eyes V A 5th Annual New Canaan High School Exhibition at the Carriage Barn Arts Center. On view from March 10th to April 1st 2017.  Opening reception is on March 10th, 5...

Cost: Free

Where:
Carriage Barn Arts Center
681 South Ave
Waveny Park
New Canaan, CT  06840
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The Loft Gallery will host a collection of works by watercolorist, Mary Jane Magoon of Sherman, CT, and oil paintings by Tom Pearsall of Washington CT. This exhibit will be on view from February...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery @ The Smithy Store
10 Main Street
New Preston, CT  06777
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Sponsor: The Smithy Store
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan
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Last Days of Pangea: In the Footsteps of Dinosaurs November 19, 2016 - July 16, 2017 Image: Cast skull of Postosuchus, one of the largest carnivorous reptiles during the late Triassic, 200...

Cost: $7 adult, $6 Senior/student, under 5 and member free

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06878
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Sponsor: Bruce Museum
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Canvas and Cast: Highlights from the Bruce Museum’s Art Collection February 11 – June 11, 2017 On February 11, 2017, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, opens its newest...

Cost: $7 adult, $6 student, member and under 5 free. Free to all on Tuesdays

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06878
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Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203 869 0376
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Clay Art Center is pleased to present REVISIT: The Boneyard   Featuring works by 40 internationally acclaimed ceramic artists who have taught workshops at Clay Art Center over the...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Clay Art Center
40 Beech Street
Port Chester, CT  10573
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Sponsor: Clay Art Center
Telephone: 914-937-2047
Contact Name: Nancy Yates
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The Cooper & Smith Gallery presents Skyward by New York artist Sheila Kramer. Sheila’s paintings are informed by her worldly travels, the landscapes and atmospheres observed from the...

Cost: free

Where:
Cooper & Smith Gallery
10 Main Street
Essex, CT  06426
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Sponsor: Cooper & Smith Gallery
Telephone: 860-581-8526
Contact Name: Pamela St. Clair
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Alfred Sisley (1839-1899): Impressionist Master at the Bruce Museum from January 21, 2017 - May 21, 2017 The Bruce Museum and the Hôtel de Caumont Centre d’Art in Aix-en-Provence,...

Cost: $7 adult, $6 student, member and under 5 free. Free to all on Tuesdays

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
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Sponsor: Bruce Museum and Culturespaces
Telephone: 203-869-0376
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Clay Art Center is pleased to present REVISIT: The Boneyard Featuring works by 40 internationally acclaimed ceramic artists who have taught workshops at Clay Art Center over the last 60...

Cost: 0

Where:
Clay Art Center
40 Beech Street
Port Chester, NY  10573
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Telephone: 914-937-2047
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Explore the earliest history of Pequot Library, the opening of its doors in 1894 as a public library, "free as air to all," and the founding efforts of Virginia Marquand Monroe and Elbert...

Cost: Free

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
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Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346 ext. 15
Contact Name: Front Desk
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