Teaching in Kabul

Emma Ayres, a violist and former ABC Classic FM radio presenter, discusses her experience in teaching in Kabul at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music.

CP: You teach viola, cello, and violin as well?

EA: A little bit of violin and a little bit of double bass, although I’m not a very good double bass player.

CP: But I imagine the process of a child learning viola is acoustically terrible, because I spent a year learning violin, and at the end of the year, my teacher just said, “Guitar’s your thing.” 

EA: Just the open strings?

CP: Yeah.

EA: Yeah, and plucking.

CP: But do you have to be resilient to get through those early learning times?

EA: Actually, there was an amazing experience that happened a few months ago, which was terrible, actually. There was a massive bomb that went off at the police academy, and about 30 police cadets were killed. I was at home, and it was warm, and I was sitting outside having a nice cold drink, and I heard the sound of this bomb going off. The thing is that a bomb is actually an incredible sound, because its like it just takes every sound around and makes it into this perfect round thing. So it’s something that you just don’t experience very much. But the thing is that it ends everything. All these young men died.

Then I went to school the next day, as you do, and I listened to a beginning string student, and it sounded absolutely terrible. I was thinking about the sound of the bomb, which was kind of perfect, but it ended everything, and then the sound of this little kid playing the viola, and it sounded so terrible, but the thing is, it’s the beginning of something so incredible.

Emma Ayres, in an interview with Charlie Pickering. The Weekly. Series 2, episode 3. 17 February 2016.