Magnificat Institute Music School Called “Laboratory of Peace”

By Ward Degler

The Magnificat Institute has become well known as a premier school of music located in the Old City of Jerusalem, but its academic director Hania Sabbara says it is also “a laboratory of peace.”

The 200 students currently studying at the Institute come from diverse ethnic, economic and religious backgrounds, she says. “They are Jewish children, Christians and Muslims,” she says, “all working together in harmony to perfect their musical talents. “

The Magnificat Institute was founded in 1995 under the auspices of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land by Fr. Armondo Pierucci, who continues working at the Institute. It is the first school of its kind to be established in the Holy Land with the mission of providing music training for all children regardless of their background.

The students begin their training at an early age – usually three or four years old – and continue at the school until graduation at the age of 16 or 17,

Sabbara says, adding that by the time they finish, “they are professional musicians.” Some graduates have returned to the school as instructors, she added.

The routine at the school includes a series of concerts each year as well as individual and group instruction for the students. Concerts include liturgical performances at the Holy Sepulcher and other Holy sites.

The school has 20 full-time instructors who teach piano, violin, viola, cello, organ, singing, guitar, composition, flute, percussion, choir, solfeggio and music history. Instruction conforms to standards held by the National Conservatory of Music in Vincenza, Italy, Sabbara says, and points out that a commission from the conservatory monitors final exams for the students each year. “Students must pass these examinations before advancing to the next level,” she says.

Since its founding, the Magnificat Institute has grown dramatically. The school had no orchestra in 2010, but now has two – one for beginning students, and a second for advanced students, Sabbara says.

The Institute depends heavily on donations to cover costs. Students are charged only 25 percent of the total cost for their instruction, Sabbara says, adding that the Custody of the Holy Land through the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land provides the balance. She pointed out that a $2,500 donation to the Foundation will provide a year-long scholarship for a student. The school also welcomes donations of used musical instruments, she adds.

“Our students work together every day,” Sabbara says, “and they form deep and lasting friendships. They not only become excellent musicians, but better human beings,” she adds.