‘Sweet Spot’ With Mike Sugerman: Refugees Find Their Voices Through Orchestra

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — We’ve heard a lot about refugees recently.

But we haven’t heard much from them.

Unless you listen to the Refugee Orchestra.

Lidiya Yonkovskaya, a refugee, originally from the former Soviet Union, put the ensemble together last year.

“When the refugees crisis hit, many people in my own work and life did not recognize that I came here as a refugee,” she says.

Lidiya is a professional orchestral conductor. She thought putting together musicians from around the world, now refugees in the United States, could show that they had a lot to offer.

Zhanna Alhakzova is a soprano and a refugee also from the Soviet Union.

“I thought it was just very important to showcase just how many refugees there are living among us, working among us, and are sharing the same goals that we are,” she says.

It was the Syrian crisis that moved Lidiya to action.

So she was thrilled that at one of their first shows in Brooklyn, Lubana a-Quintar, Syria’s greatest opera singer, now a refugee in the US, performed. It was a very moving experience.

“I hope that the people who come to our concerts have the opportunity to see the beautiful music these refugees are making and understand that all of us are here to contribute to American culture, to American society,” she says.

She certainly found a sound way to get her point across.

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