This 17-year-old trumpet player may have never been able to pursue his passion if it weren’t for the kindness of an American musician living thousands of miles away from him.
Ahmed “Baset” Azizi grew up in Afghanistan, living in constant fear of the Taliban finding out about his love of music. He spent his childhood hiding under desks while his city was bombed, witnessing atrocities that most children should never have to witness.
“I could not play in the house because playing some Western musical instruments is forbidden by the Taliban and other people,” says Baset. “If a neighbor heard my playing and reported it to those groups, my family and myself were in danger: first because I was playing music and also because my dad works for the Army.”
Baset persisted with his learning until he came across a clip of David Bilger, Principal Trumpet of The Philadelphia Orchestra – and he was mesmerized by the sound the American was able to make.
Baset then sent a message to Bilger over Facebook with a special request.
“Baset introduced himself as ‘the best trumpeter in Afghanistan – because there are only 2!’” Bilger told Good News Network. “Once I learned a bit about his early musical experiences at the Afghan National Institute of Music, and the fact that he was now without a teacher, I offered to give him some advice and coaching over the Internet.”
For several months, the two musicians would connect at 11PM EST every week for one hour of coaching – despite there being an 8.5 hour time difference. Eventually, the Afghani teen expressed his wish to study at the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan – and Bilger was more than happy to make that wish come true.
Bilger – along with the help of Robin Korevaar, a Texas clarinetist who Baset met during his school term in Kabul – started working on how they would bring their young prodigy to the United States. While Baset trained for the school’s audition with the hope that he would receive an academic scholarship, the two American musicians began a crowdfunding page to raise the money for travel expenses, food, and lodging.
Then, after four months of tireless work, Baset was accepted to Interlochen on full scholarship for one year. Additionally, $30,000 was donated to the crowdfunding page, covering all of his expenses.
Since he started studying at Interlochen in the fall, Baset says that he has not taken his education for granted.
“Playing the trumpet is not just a casual activity for me,” says Baset. “My family has sacrificed and I have lived in fear while in Afghanistan so that I could play. And I am totally committed to becoming the best musician I can be.”
Since Baset was recently accepted into the University of Kansas’s music program on a full-ride four year scholarship, Robin and Bilger – with the help of Baset’s current teacher and “Interlochen mom”, Leann Burger– have since set up a second crowdfunding page to pay for their student’s living arrangements. The page only requires $5,000 more to fulfill their $65,000 goal.
“Baset is a wonderful young man,” Bilger told Good News Network. “He has an amazing work ethic, especially for everything trumpet. And he has expressed to me his desire to make the most of the opportunities that are now available to him through the generosity of so many people. The miraculous reality of his current situation is not lost on him.”
In recognition of their compassionate efforts, Burger, Bilger, and Korevaar have all been named GoFundMe heroes of the month.
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Reprint (Photo by Beth Price Photography)