Culture in the Vail Valley

Baset’s Story

I was born 17 years ago in Kabul, Afghanistan, in an open-minded family. My dad works for the Ministry of Defense, my mom is a homemaker and I have one older brother who is finishing law in University of Kabul and two younger sisters. I was fortunate to start school in one of the greatest schools in Kabul, Malali School, but the school is in front of the Afghanistan Ministry of Internal Affairs. As the school is in front of the ministry, there was a lot of bombings from 2005 to 2008. Frequently there was a bombing, and all of us were rushing and hiding under tables and other places. I was only eight years old. I didn’t understand what was happening. Many times we came out of school building and saw blood and body parts in the street.

The last bombing happened when our school driver would usually wait for us outside of school at the end of the school day. We were just about to leave the building to meet the driver, and the bomb exploded. I started crying and saying, “They killed him!” The teachers and my sister were saying, “No, he is fine,” but they didn’t know if he was okay or not. Fortunately, he was late that day. Then they called him and he talked to me and said he was okay.

So after all that, my parents said I could not go there anymore because after every bombing I was frightened and upset. And seeing the blood, parts of bodies in street is not easy. It was not a movie or story.

So, my parents asked if I would like to go to the music school, I immediately said “Yes.” I passed the tests and auditioned there. After 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.

People told me if you play music, you die. The Taliban hates musicians. Members have been known to brutally target musicians for torture and death because music is viewed as blasphemous.

Life became harder for me and my family because in Afghanistan most of the people don’t like to play or listen to music. They make jokes if they know a person is a musician one group may say, ‘If I know this is a musician I will cut off their head.’ I can say life for a musician here is such a hard thing. Now, I know that music can change lives – I didn’t know anything about music or trumpet before I started playing the trumpet. In my native country of Afghanistan, most people think that music is not a good thing. When I started playing the trumpet I knew that it will be a hard life in Afghanistan with that bad situation and people’s thoughts. The trumpet is an instrument that people make fun of, and the players as well, more than any other instrument.

When relatives and friends got to know that I was playing trumpet, they said, “You are a smart boy, intelligent and hard working, you should be a doctor or engineer. Don’t waste your time with the music.” Some were making fun of my trumpet and me. It is hard when people are not supporting you to do something. But when they are discouraging it makes you sad sometimes. I didn’t give up, and played from my heart and enjoyed every day with my trumpet. When I perform, I enjoy it and share what I have inside of my soul. I feel I am telling a story, asking people to enjoy their time while they are with me, and asking for love and peace. My personal strengths are passion and determination – musically, I am emotional and connected to my audience.

One day I was listening to trumpet YouTube recordings. One of the videos shocked me, and I stopped it and repeated it. This sound was what I was looking for five years. He sounded amazing, so I searched for more videos of him and looked found his name. Dr. David Bilger, who is truly my hero, a great human being and one of the fantastic trumpet players in the world.

A few days later I was brave and decided to look him up online. I sent a “friend” request, not sure if he will answer me or ignore me, but I was just hoping. He answered me and I sent him a message and wrote about myself and asked him to stay in touch. The interesting thing is I sent him a message at 8:52 in the morning and he wrote me back 8:52 that evening.

When I told him that I would like to apply to Interlochen, he really encouraged to do it and said, “If you pass the audition, I will do anything I can.” I was waiting to hear from school, very excited and I was checking emails every three hours. I still remember, it was two am that I received an email from Interlochen that I got a scholarship to study there. When I told Dr. Bilger that I got the scholarship, he said, “Now this is my turn.” So he raised over $30K for me to study at Interlochen and life expenses. I know how hard all my friends worked to make this happen, even I can’t explain it.

Now that I have traveled for the first time and feel much safer, it is easier to concentrate on music. But I’m away from family, and most importantly, I don’t know if I will ever see them again. I know it is hard for my parents for me to study abroad, as I am only the son of the family. I am here in the U.S. but what I am thinking about is their safety. This has so besieged me here because my dad is working in Military, which is so hard there, and as well I am thinking “If something happens to them, how I can go?” They are happy for me that I am here, but it is hard. I really wish my parents were here with me.