Help Afghan Trumpeter Go to College
His primary school was in front of the Afghanistan Ministry of Internal Affairs, a favorite target of the Taliban. He sometimes saw blood and body parts in the streets and inside the school, a sight that is hard for a child to comprehend. Fearing for his safety, his parents asked if he wanted to attend music school. Baset started studying at Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul. At the time, Baset had never seen a trumpet. Yet, by 2013, he was the principal trumpet in the National Orchestra.
Because the Taliban dislikes music, practicing at home, even carrying an instrument case on the street is still very dangerous for musicians. Music, in general, is forbidden by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and some hard-liners think anyone playing an instrument, especially a Western one, should be punished.
Some people he knew advised him to stop playing. However, the school no longer had a trumpet teacher, and with no musical guidance, that is when he found David Bilger, principal trumpet of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Bilger began tutoring him through Skype. Fundraisers and a GoFundMe campaign were established, and with the support of many generous people and Baset's hard work, he was able to attend Interlochen Arts Academy. Baset graduated with honors May 27, 2017.
Baset has been accepted by the University of Kansas School of Music. However, before he is able to attend the university, he has to prove to the United States government that he has complete funding in place in order to get his F1 visa. If he can’t show every dollar needed is in place, he will not be issued the visa. And without a visa, he’ll have to return to Afghanistan. And this is why he has turned to this campaign to make his four years at KU possible. He needs to pay for school – about $15,000 for room and board, books, and other living expenses each year. Additional contributions are most welcome for Baset's future studies.
“I want to become the best trumpet player I can and a good person,” says Baset. “My goal is to learn so that I can serve where I can.” Winston Churchill said, ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’ Great sacrifices have been made by many for me to follow my dream. Now I will begin to give back.”
A custom on Nowruz is preparing Haft-maiwa which means seven fruits. Seven kinds of dried fruits soaked in water for a couple of nights and then severed on the New Year’s Day. Whenever I have a family here and if you happen to visit us on the New Year’s Day, you will get this tasty treat.
This year Nowruz started with fear and darkness. Haft-maiwa was soaked in mothers, fathers and children tears and blood. We are losing our family members, they are us! For sixteen years, I had so many close calls, so I really feel it deeply.
Now that my financing is in place, I don't have to worry about finding money for college. I can focus on my music studies and academics. I can relax a little and this makes everything easier.
The funds you have donated will go to class fees, room and board, other KU fees, travel during breaks and other expenses needed during my studies. If there is anything left I will put it towards furthering my education and career (perhaps a master’s degree). This has been an amazing year being at Interlochen and in the US, being safe, having lessons with professional musician and the freedom to play anytime, anywhere. Trumpet has been really good in my life as it opened many doors for me. I want to be a solo and orchestra player - and hopefully, the University of Kansas will be the right place to help me reach my goals. I think it will be a great next step.
I attended Bert Truax camp last week in Texas. Next month, I will attend Blast of Brass in Texas and Curtis Summerfest in Philadelphia. Then I will be in Kansas to start a colorful page of my life in the University of Kansas.
I am sure grateful for the financial assistance and excited to be a Jayhawk!
Ahmad “Baset” Azizi
I was born in Kabul, Afghanistan in an open-minded family. My dad works for the Ministry of Defense, my mom is a homemaker and I have three sisters. I was fortunate to start school in one of the greatest schools in Kabul - Malali School - but the school was in front of the Afghanistan Ministry of Internal Affairs. There were a lot of bombings from 2005 to 2008 there. Frequently there was a bombing, and all of us were rushing and hiding under tables and other places. I was only seven years old. I didn’t understand what was happening.
Many times we came out of the school building and saw blood and body parts, but I didn’t know what was it to see a part of the hand, ear, eye or other body parts, so I was asking, "What are those?" Seeing the blood, parts of bodies in the street was not easy. It was not a movie or story. After every bombing, I was frightened and upset. So after all that, my parents said I could not go there anymore.
After attending another school close to our house for a short time, my parents asked if I would like to go to the music school, which is not usual in Afghanistan. I immediately said yes. I passed the tests and auditioned there. After the audition, one of the teachers asked what I would like to play and I said “piano.” But he said, “You will play the trumpet.” He was the trumpet teacher.
When I started playing the trumpet, I was not happy because I’d never seen a trumpet. I knew people would make so much fun of me for playing because musicians are not respected in Afghanistan. I wanted to change instruments, but when I learned how to play a few notes on the trumpet - C, D, E, F - then I was encouraged.
I needed to practice, and I was determined to be one of the top trumpet players in the world. I was hungry to play. At school, I ate lunch in 5 minutes and practiced for 55 minutes, and I always practiced during the longer 15-minute break. I had teachers for a short time, but because of the bad situation, they left and there were no Afghan trumpet players. As I got the principal position in the school and all ensembles, I had to work harder and it was not enough to only work by myself.
There were no trumpet teachers in Afghanistan, so I started having online lessons. Every one of those teachers supported me as they did free lessons, but if they had asked for any charge, I was not able to pay. I could not play in the house because playing some Western musical instruments is forbidden by the Taliban and other people. 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. However, I loved the trumpet, and it didn’t matter if my relatives were making fun of me or other people I knew were saying I shouldn’t play or were worried for my safety or that many people said, "You are a very smart boy, you should be a doctor or an engineer."
Bombings were a constant threat. We had many close calls. Many times I was one minute away from bombings. We had two chamber music concerts for successive nights. I played the first night, but the second night it was Afghan traditional instruments so I decided not to go. A bombing occurred the second night during the performance inside the hall, killing several people, and severely injuring the director of the school. But I was lucky. It was not the time to die, so God saved us.
Playing the trumpet is not just a casual activity for me. 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. Now that I have come to a new country for the first time, traveled alone and now feel much more safe, it is easier to concentrate on music. But I’m away from family, and I don’t know if I will ever see them again. I worry about their safety every day, I just hope I can meet them again and of course, not lose them. Great sacrifices have been made.
I need to pay for school - about $10,000 for room and board each year. I also need to cover the cost of books, traveling during breaks, trumpet lessons, clothes and maybe some other expenses. I think it will be around $15K each year or hopefully a little less. This is my goal and I thank people for the generosity.
I want to become a professional trumpet player and a good person. I want to share my love through my trumpet sound and to be able to help other people to fulfill their dreams because I believe we can do anything with the great love of humanity around us.
Music is love, love is music, music is life and I love my life. All my love and thanks to you all for your love and support.
We express our deepest thanks to all who have contributed so far to his college fund. Please feel free to share our efforts with anyone who might be interested in his story or making a contribution.
It is surely wonderful to see your financial goal has been reached and such a great feeling seeing so many here are pulling together for you to succeed! Congratulations Baset and have many wonderful years of study of music at KU. Your determination and dream are an inspiration to all of us. We hope to see you perform and play music at the Carnegie Hall in the near future. Good luck in achieving your dream and to a bright future!
Great news Baset. Really looking forward to having you in Lawrence. You will be in good hands with the Steve and Paulina. Will see you again soon. Maybe we will have a chance to take you on some trips around the country, although you are already quite the traveler!
Yay!!! Your goal has been reached. Your story has touched my heart, and I wish you all the best in your dreams and goals. I hope one day to get to hear you play and hear your music! Congratulations Baset. May all your dreams and wishes come true. I hope you get to see your family soon too. That must be very hard but keep your head up and focus on your success! God bless! ❣️ ✌️⭐️✝
congratulations I hope one day I can go to college too
Ahmad, I am so proud of you. Follow your dream, work hard, have fun, and keep that wonderful smile on your face. May God bless you & keep you safe! Miss Carol.
Hi LeAnn, The Facebook page indicates that Baset is fully funded. Is that true? If not, you may want to edit the page or create a new one to make things clear.
Congratulations Baset on doing so well your first semester! Your family remains in my heart and may they know that many of us send love regardless of borders, belief, and circumstances.
Wishing you well this December holiday morning. I hope your family is well and safe, that you, yourself, are happy and full of music. Take good care Baset, I am hoping that you have joy in your life. May the year to come be one where we all are able to rise to the challenges set before us by life on this planet with creativity and generosity of spirit rather than violence and fear. May our troubled world wake refreshed and awash with hope, enthusiasm and the will to make it so.
So happy you had a good semester. For anyone the first semester of college has many ups and downs. You seem to navigate it just right. I wish you a happy holiday season and a great second semester!