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Queen Noor and the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra

Excitement abounds when a queen comes to town. But when her arrival is coupled with a symphony orchestra’s 50th anniversary celebration, the significance of her presence is magnified ten-fold.

The town in this case is Fayetteville and the personage is Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, the glamorous Princeton-educated American, Lisa Halaby. She married His Majesty King Hussein of Jordan, now deceased, a quarter of a century ago.

The celebration will be no ordinary event. It takes place Saturday, October 7, to benefit the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra on its 50th anniversary with a reception and special concert at the Crown Center. In response to an invitation issued by the FSO’s Music Director and Conductor, Fouad Fakhouri, Queen Noor will be present at both the 5:30 p.m. reception (in a unique space created expressly for the event within the Crown Complex) and at the 8 p.m. concert. Maestro Fakhouri’s connection to the Queen traces to his father, Kifah Fakhouri, who, like his son, is both a composer and conductor. A native of Lebanon, in 1988 the elder Fakhouri was appointed by Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan to serve as the Director of the National Music Conservatory of Jordan, a position he still holds.

The Conservatory itself is a major project of the Queen Noor Al Hussein Foundation, established by Royal Decree in 1985 with the Queen herself as chair at that time (and continuing to the present time.) The Conservatory constitutes but one component of Queen Noor’s broad vision for improving the welfare of the people of her adopted country—especially its women and children. The effectiveness of the Foundation, in fact, stands as a testimony to the influence one person in a unique position of power can marshall to produce positive changes in the lives of millions of people.

Were she only a very pretty face, Queen Noor would turn heads. But the success of her efforts through the establishment of a foundation dedicated to helping “advance development thinking in Jordan by progressing beyond charity-oriented social welfare practices” commands respect, if not awe.

According to its attractive website (www.noor.gov.jo/nhf.htm), The Queen Noor Foundation undertakes projects in five principal program areas: integrated community development; child and family health; women and enterprise development; microfinance—and culture and arts. Hence, the creation of the National Music Conservatory of Jordan, which established the country’s first children’s orchestra. The Conservatory has become “the main propeller of music education, training and cultural exchange in Jordan,” according to information on the website.

Hence also the rationale for the Queen’s acceptance of Fouad Fakhouri’s invitation to grace the FSO’s 50th Anniversary celebration: several outstanding musicians at her conservatory will be showcased at the 50th Anniversary celebration of her young countryman’s orchestra in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Twelve of those Conservatory musicians — each a fantastic talent — will precede the Queen’s arrival for the 50th Anniversary concert. Four of the musicians excel at performing indigenous music of Jordan on authentic instruments. Maestro Fakhouri will coordinate with area schools and colleges to place these four performers in master classes in those venues. The eight other musicians from the conservatory, trained in classical Western music, will rehearse and perform with the Fayetteville Symphony at the Anniversary Concert. All twelve will be flown to Fayetteville from Amman, Jordan, thanks to the generosity of an American company, the Itron Corporation, which has offices in the Research Triangle.

That a young Jordanian citizen, whose undergraduate and graduate training has been entirely in the U.S., should become the Music Director of the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra typifies the international backgrounds of young conductors in the U.S. today. What may be surprising is that Fouad Fakhouri was one of 106 well-credentialed individuals who applied for the job! At the end of an 18-month process he emerged as the individual the Search Committee would tap to lead the Fayetteville Symphony.

When he accepted the position, he also became an Adjunct Professor in the Music Department of Methodist College for which he would begin developing an orchestral program. Such a partnership between Methodist College and the FSO marks the continuation of a long tradition of generosity on the part of the College. It has provided, almost since the founding of the orchestra, free rehearsal and performance space in Reeves Auditorium for which advocates of the Symphony are deeply grateful.

Financial support from the community and from grants has increased markedly in the short time that Dr. Fakhouri has filled the post. The visibility of the FSO throughout the community has increased because of the commitment to perform in a broader variety of venues within the Fayetteville area. The orchestra has also resumed regional performances in Lumberton and Southern Pines. And for the first time in its history, the FSO performed during the ’05-’06 season at the Crown Theater before all third grades of the Cumberland County Schools. So successful were those pilot performances that the FSO will perform again for all third grades in the upcoming ’06-’07 season.

Dr. Fakhouri and his wife Diane, who is employed by Smith, have found Fayetteville much to their liking. He is particularly excited by the potential of the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra to serve as a dynamic advertisement for the Fayetteville area throughout the state. That he hails from another country means Fouad Fakhouri is a perfect fit for a community whose citizens come from many countries and cultures — truly an international city.

Fouad Fakhouri emphasizes, “We have tried to price this extraordinary community event so that the Crown Theater can be filled with music lovers from our region.”