KUWAIT CITY (Dec. 29, 2015) — An orchestra needs many talented musicians, just like a coalition needs talented Soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen from many nations to forge enduring partnerships and accomplish any mission.
The U.S. Army Central, or USARCENT, music program is one asset that is able to reach across cultural and language barriers to form relationships and lasting partnerships.
“Music is the most effective form of communication, especially when it comes to emotions,” said Maj. Dan Toven, music liaison officer with USARCENT. “If we want to communicate things, like friendship and patriotism, we can do that through word and pictures, but music is the most effective way in communicating those things.”
Toven, a professional with advanced degrees in music performance and conducing, spent five weeks with students of the American International School-Kuwait in Kuwait City, and provided instrumental instruction and directed several numbers to continue building international bonds.
“I always relish the opportunity to go back and work with young musicians,” said Toven, a native of Union City, Pennsylvania. “It is exciting in this context because we accomplish two things, we build up young musicians and then we build relationships with these students. Music is a great vehicle to build relationships and that is one of our chief objectives in USARCENT.”
When facilitating key leader engagements with foreign militaries or governments, a musical performance is the perfect setting. It is a non-threatening event, puts everybody in a good mood and you create an environment that helps people work together, Toven said.
“Music is a way [the Army] can take that professionalism, that technical expertise, and the world class abilities of our [Soldiers] and put that on public display,” Toven said.
“The more we can work together, the more these students understand American culture,” said Dan Massoth, high school instrumental music director at the American International School-Kuwait. “Being able to meet someone in the U.S. Armed Forces is an important way to build bridges between cultures and communities and that is something we really want to make sure we do more of at the school.”
Massoth, a native of St. Paul, Minnesota, said the students were excited to work with a professional who has accomplished so much and also liked hearing about his life experiences.
“If we are only communicating battle plans and troop strengths with our partners, we are leaving out a whole side of the communication process,” Toven said. “What music does, is it enables us to engage that other side of people and creates positive environments, which then helps us achieve our strategic defense.”
Toven emphasized how important these collaborations are and how the international nature of music can be a bridge, a language, that anybody can understand. He said this concert was a wonderful way to highlight that continuing partnership.
“The kids are going to take this memory with them and somewhere down the road they are going to remember that U.S. Army guy and what was taught, that is what is important,” Toven said.