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Breaking Boundaries Through Music: An Interview with Upcoming DLS Speaker

Music is many things for many people. For some, it is a way to bond with friends. For others, it is a way to pass time. But for Syrian refugee Mariela Shaker, music is a way to break boundaries.

“Music is a way to get the world together and to remove our differences…It is something that unites the world together,” Shaker said.

Shaker is an advocate for peace and social change. She currently visits schools across the country to share the message of peace, loving your neighbor and accepting one another’s differences.

After coming to America to seek asylum from the Syrian Civil War, she aimed to show people that refugees are not a burden. She hopes to inspire change through her violin and encourage others to help those in need.

“A lot of people think we don’t need music, because it is a luxury thing, and people are dying to have bread and water. But it is very important,” Shaker said. “The message behind the music and how we deliver it will not feed a child or refugee, but will inspire people and change makers to do something about what is happening and take immediate action.”

Shaker started playing the violin at the age of 10 after falling in love with the instrument. She describes it as being a way to “express so much emotion…and be able to describe your personality through the music you make.”

It only took a year of playing for Shaker to know that she wanted to play the violin professionally. She even went on to become the youngest violin teacher at the Arabic Institute of Music while studying at the University of Aleppo.

The Syrian Civil War interrupted her dreams, however, when it began in 2011. During the war, Shaker witnessed destruction in her country, including the explosion of her university.

Instead of letting the war get between her and her passion, Shaker decided to do everything in her power to continue playing, including applying for scholarships in other countries.

Shaker came to America in 2013 after receiving a scholarship for Monmouth College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in music performance. While there, she was so dedicated to her music that she would lock herself in the practice room for up to eight hours a day.

She said she is incredibly grateful for the chance to continue making music and wants others in difficult situations to know that although the process of pursuing one’s passions in the middle of such tremendous obstacles is hard, but it is possible.

“When you have a dream, nothing is impossible,” Shaker said.

Shaker will to the Memorial Union’s Shannon Hall on Nov. 18 to discuss her journey and perform. Learn more about this free event, which is presented by the Wisconsin Union Directorate Distinguished Lecture Series Committee: https://union.wisc.edu/events-and-activities/event-calendar/event/an-evening-with-mariela-shaker-music-for-peace-advocacy-and-social-change/.

Check out other events presented by the Distinguished Lecture Series Committee and learn more about the Committee: https://union.wisc.edu/get-involved/wud/dls/.

Author: Raye Pernsteiner

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