News

    Chicago Musician Travels to Mideast, Plays in Israel, West Bank

    The leader of a small suburban village near Chicago made his name as a small town politician and big city prosecutor.  Little did his constituents know that by the time he had entered college, nearly two decades earlier, Mark Damisch was an accomplished pianist.

    After Damisch revived his musical career nearly a decade ago, he began playing for audiences around the world to raise awareness of worthy issues.  This week [August 4th to August 9th], the man known as the "musical mayor" is in the Middle East, playing for peace.

    VOA's Kane Farabaugh has the story in the latest in our series:  Making a Difference.


    People around the northern suburbs of Chicago might recognize Mark Damisch as the former village president, or mayor, of Northbrook -- or as the successful former prosecutor who, along with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, aggressively pursued corrupt police officers in the 1980s.

    In between cases as an attorney at a downtown Chicago law firm, Damisch ran for but lost an election for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000.

    But few people knew at the time he was also once a professional pianist.

    "I was never going to be a quarterback on the football team or the starting pitcher on a baseball team," Damisch said. "But I found that I could find myself through playing the piano."
    In the early 1980's, Damisch quietly put away his music and pursued a more practical career.

    The Musical Mayor, performing for peace
    As the new millennium approached, Damisch looked at the piano that had gathered dust for almost two decades, and began playing professionally again.

    "In the year 2000, I did 12 concerts between here and western Europe, and that's grown to where last year I did eighty concerts in 120 days," he recalls.

    He is known now at home as the "Musical Mayor."

    He has performed as far away as China, where he has used music to raise money for causes such as the Red Cross.  Now, Damisch has taken on the role of musical ambassador in the conflict-torn Middle East.

    "It's more important, I think, for artists to go over there and perform now than maybe at any time in the history of the world," Damisch said.

    Damisch chose Beethoven's Appassionato Sonata for a reason. "To me, everything about the Middle East is passion," he said. "It's my land. It's your land.   It's my home.  It's your home -- my religion, your religion and the Appassionato Sonata is all about Beethoven's passion at a time when he realized he was about to lose his hearing."

    Damisch admits that there is only so much a musician can do to encourage peace.  He says he hopes that by traveling to places not often visited by artists, he can in some small way draw attention to the issues at stake.

    "The point is to go and play in places where they need people to reach out and to reach across the divide," Damisch said.

    He encounters a region engulfed conflict for at least three quarters of a century, with a peace process that, once again, is in tatters.

    Mark Damisch, a mayor, a prosecutor, a lawyer and, once again, a pianist says he hopes as an artist he can make a difference.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora