Indiana Daily Student

Afghan refugee studying violin at Jacobs School of Music after fleeing Afghanistan

<p>Mehran Fanoos poses for a picture with his violin on March 8, 2022, outside of the Simon Music Library and Recital Center. Fanoos fled Afghanistan for India in ninth grade and is currently in his first semester at IU.</p>

Mehran Fanoos poses for a picture with his violin on March 8, 2022, outside of the Simon Music Library and Recital Center. Fanoos fled Afghanistan for India in ninth grade and is currently in his first semester at IU.

Mehran Fanoos, a freshman at IU, said he is thankful to be studying violin at the Jacobs School of Music after facing difficult situations in Afghanistan and India. 

The Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021. Due to a lack of safety, the Afghanistan National Institute of Music has been closed since the Taliban overtook Afghanistan. More than 300 students who were attending the school moved to Portugal.

Fanoos said it is impossible to study safely, improve or develop in the country. He studied until ninth grade in Afghanistan before fleeing with his mother to India under United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees status and attending high school there. 

Fanoos played percussion instruments when he was 3 years old and began playing violin at age 7 after enrolling at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music under the instruction of William Harvey, IU alumnus and founder and director of Cultures in Harmony. 

During his last year and a half in Afghanistan, Fanoos did not have a violin teacher. Since India is not well known for western classical music, he said it was difficult to find a teacher. In India, he took lessons remotely with William Harvey. Fanoos said he didn’t have a teacher for almost six years.

“I had a really difficult situation in India because I had no teacher. I didn't know how to practice, what to practice,” Fanoos said. “It was difficult for me to figure out everything.”

Elham Fanoos, Mehran Fanoos’ brother and well-known pianist, studied at the Manhattan School of Music and is currently teaching in New York City. Mehran Fanoos said their father, Ahmad Fanoos, was the greatest musical influence in their family. He is famous for his singing and was a judge on the TV show “Afghan Star.” 

Fanoos’ mother is still living in India while his father and siblings are in North America due to the difficulties of getting a visa to come to America. 

Mimi Zweig, professor of violin and director of the Jacobs string academy, said her former student, Harvey, was in contact with her for years, planning to get Fanoos to attend IU. Zweig said Fanoos is bright and independent.

Fanoos said he’s always wanted to be at a school where music can be heard everywhere and, at Jacobs, that dream has come true for him.

Harvey is also a professor at the Universidad Panamericana, professor emeritus at Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Portugal, founder of Cultures in Harmony and concertmaster of Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional. Harvey said Fanoos has a natural talent.

“From a teacher's perspective, a student who can do nearly any suggestion upon being told only one time is pretty remarkable,” he said.

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