By Maxim Reider
"At the first moment this little Syrian boy looked scared, he did not know what is going to happen to him – or around him. He has probably never seen a violin before. But then I started playing and within 20 seconds he was already smiling – this is the power of music. He obviously enjoyed it and at the end he gave me ‘five,’” says Czech violinist Pavel Sporcl, as he speaks about his far-from-routine concert appearance at the Western Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya.
The internationally acclaimed musician visited Israel last week. The 45-year-old violinist presented a masterclass at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, with great success. But the previous day he spent in the Western Galilee, visiting the hospital before visiting the Keshet Eilon Music Center.
Sporcl started playing violin at the age of five. He studied at the Prague Conservatory and then continued to the US, where Eduard Schmieder, Itzhak Perlman and Dorothy DeLay were his teachers. Now he performs throughout the world, appearing with Czech and international orchestras. He is the sole young Czech violinist listed in the book Violin Virtuosos: From Paganini to the 21st Century, by the world-renowned music critic and historian Henry Roth.
In addition to traditional concert activities, Sporcl promotes classical music among new audiences. “When I became famous in my country – people recognize me in the street, which is not usual for a classical violinist – I realized that I can make changes in other people’s life,” he said.
“I make a lot of educational concerts for young people in my country. This is a part of my life, I want to show people that they shouldn’t be afraid of classical music. I also try to raise the national pride of Czech people, so I play the national anthem with variations in my concerts.”
Sporcl also contributes to the community by performing beneficial concerts, like the one he gave in the Western Galilee.
“I believe that both as a musician and a human being, I have to help other people,” he says. “I’ve been performing benefit concerts for many years, and not only in hospitals. I was so happy to be today in the hospital. It is a very special place, which unites people from different regions and ways of life."
“It’s very important to perform there, playing both for the staff and the patients. The former work hard, helping people and bringing them together, and as for the latter – time does not go so fast when you are ill. So they appreciate it very much when I come to play, because by my music I make people a bit happier. Back to this little boy – you can see how much music can do. He does not speak English and I do not speak Arabic. But the connection between the two of us was almost immediate.”
The eight-year-old Syrian boy was one of many Syrian patients who have been treated in Israel since the bloody civil war there began. In fact, more than 70% of the 3,000 Syrians – many of them women and children – who were treated in Israel, were hosted by the Western Galilee Medical Center. This boy, who spent two months in a coma, came to Israel with his mother. She later returned to her homeland and the boy, who now feels fine, will soon join her.
The Western Galilee Medical Center is a modern facility situated among the pastoral landscapes of northern Israel. Headed since 2008 by an Arab Christian, Dr. Mas’ad Barhoum, it provides medical services to the area’s approximately 600,000 residents, which include a variety of ethnic groups and faiths, among them Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze and Circassians.
Amir Yarchi, the head of the Society of Friends of the Galilee Medical Center, explained, “The environment has a great significance for the healing process. Many studies have found that exposure to art in hospital wards and public spaces shortens the duration of hospitalization and reduces the dependency on painkillers. In recent years, we in the Galilee Medical Center, in the framework of the Environment Support Healing Project, have been working to create an environment that contributes to healing, mainly through photography, painting and sculpture exhibitions.
“The next stage for us is the integration of quality music in the public spaces, and the visit of a violinist of such a caliber as Sporcl came just in time. The reactions of the medical staff, patients and visitors show the tremendous value of integrating high-level art in a healing environment. I would like to thank Pavel, who shared his great talent with all of us.”
From the hospital, Sporcl continued to Keshet Eilon Music Center, where he met with kibbutz-born Gilad Sheba, the CEO and cofounder of the center. Founded almost 30 years ago, Keshet Eilon features an internationally renowned master course for string players. The center was founded on Kibbutz Eilon – not so wealthy, but rich in cultural tradition and love of the land of Israel. Today it hosts students and prominent teachers from all over the world.