Malek Jandali: Pianist and Composer Using Music to Make the World More Inclusive
The transformative impact of art extends beyond its aesthetic value. And when the “Human” uses that power to improve people’s lives and communities, he contributes to making the world a better place. Through his non-profit company Piano for Peace, composer, pianist, and “human” Malek Jandali is working to achieve this goal.
The Atlanta-based nonprofit Piano for Peace is on a mission to democratize access to the arts as a means of fostering social change and improving people’s quality of life. It uses artists as volunteers for its service projects to fulfill this purpose. According to Malek, founder and CEO of Piano for Peace, the organization runs four important initiatives. The program’s name is “Arts Education,” and it’s mission is to provide underprivileged schoolchildren with a “meaningful art education.” Its goal is to give young people more agency. According to Malek, the initiative helps more than 39,000 kids each year.
The second initiative, Healing Arts, helps 3,750 patients, elders, and individuals with varying needs via dynamic healing arts programs and music therapy workshops.
The third initiative of Piano for Peace is called Community Arts, and it uses the resources of some of Atlanta’s biggest arts events to help bring people together. Every year, this initiative has an effect on the lives of almost 1.2 million individuals. The fourth initiative, “Cultural Diplomacy,” makes use of the transformative potential of the arts to promote peace and mutual understanding between people and communities all around the globe. Bridges across cultures are the focus of this initiative.
Malek claims that there are three distinguishing features among the four programs. It’s all about “the needs of our partner communities, the volunteer service of our artists, and our commitment to building peace through music and education.”
A Piano for Harmony, Constructed with Love and a Drive to Express Oneself
Malek has dedicated his life to music. His father used to take him to shows when he was a kid. For some reason, he always saw himself seated at the piano. And one day he told his dad, “I want to be up there on stage where I belong!” indicating the stage. Malek is finally realizing his childhood fantasy.
He always wanted to be a musician, but it wasn’t until he saw his parents brutally attacked that he really understood the impact music could have on people’s lives. His parents in Homs, Syria were assaulted by three men in July 2011, not long after Malek performed in Washington. They confined them in the toilet and plundered the residence after viciously abusing them. His father and grandfather had reportedly told his mother, “this is a lesson to teach you how to raise your son Malek.”
“The attack was the response of the brutal Syrian dictator to my music and the voice of the children,” Malek explains. “At that moment, I realized the transformative power of music and the emancipatory potential of the arts.” That insight marked a turning moment in his development. In addition, this idea sparked the creation of Pianos for Peace, an organization that promotes the “soft power” of music via the donation of pianos to communities in need.
Malek hopes to do some good in the world via Pianos for Peace as well. He explains that he was seeking any way to give back to the community and found it in Pianos for Peace.
The group’s mission is to help those in underprivileged areas. Its initiatives are actively working to promote harmony in classrooms, hospitals, nursing homes, refugee camps, and neighborhoods across the globe. “We partner with organizations that share our mission of empowering people to build peace through music and education,” Malek explains.
In addition, Malek and his group host the yearly Pianos for Peace Festival to ensure that music is available to everyone. All across the metro Atlanta area, you may find colorful, playable pianos on display in parks and other public locations, painted by local artists. In fact, it’s recommended that individuals play them. After the event is over, fifty of these bright pianos are given to local institutions such as hospitals, schools, and community centers. “We’re proud to say that the Pianos for Peace Festival is one of Atlanta’s largest annual public arts projects, impacting a staggering 1.2 million people every year,” adds Malek.
Five bright pianos, painted by local artists and schoolchildren, were put in visible spots across Charlotte on September 21, 2021. Later in the month of October, they were given out to different nursing homes and Title I schools in the Charlotte region. Since Malek is the composer-in-residence at Queens University of Charlotte—his alma mater—it seemed only logical to hold the second annual Pianos for Peace Festival there after Atlanta.
Previous to the Pianos for Peace Space Launch Project
Before he founded Pianos for Peace, Malek lived a nomadic lifestyle. “I was constantly jetsetting around the world on concert tours, enjoying myself but feeling like something was missing.”
Malek has been looking for an opportunity to use his music to help others since he first started out. And the result of that quest is the organization Pianos for Peace. “Home” and “community” are crucial to Malek’s organization’s aim because of what he learned about them while performing throughout the globe.
Growth in Appreciation and Empathy Can Result from Adversity
It takes a lot of work to launch a successful nonprofit. “Challenging in a variety of ways,” as Malek puts it. It is difficult to be a leader in sustainability, to keep sponsors interested, to find the proper volunteers, and to keep up with strategic plans to help those in need. “These are obstacles that every nonprofit must climb,” Malek adds.
And the hardest thing for him was assembling a group of strong leaders who could then form their own cohesive groups. That, he explains, is what it is to have a symphony, or a sinfonia.
Malek cites the Sufi poet Rumi, saying, “The wound is the place where the light enters you,” and going on to say, “Hope is not comfortable or easy; it’s a daily challenge to consult your dreams instead of your fears.”
He also thinks that the two most important ingredients in the formula for lasting success are “gratitude” and “compassion,” both of which can only be developed in the face of adversity.
The Key to success is finding Quiet inside Yourself
Malek’s view of achievement, influenced by Booker Taliaferro Washington, centers on triumph over hardship.
It was from this American teacher that Malek first heard the advice “not to measure a man by his success in life, but by the obstacles he has overcome while trying to succeed.” According to Malek, his parents are also excellent role models for this since they cherish justice, equality, and peace so much.
His idea of success also includes the capacity to help those in need and to be at peace with oneself.
“When you do the right thing at the right time and for the right reason with passion and true love, this is how you know that you are truly successful,” Malek continues.
The power of music to uplift and alter
Music is an intangible art form. But it may still make a difference, spark creativity, and provide joy to the present. Malek remembers seeing a little girl’s radiant grin as she received a musical instrument on one of his visits to a refugee camp to provide them to kids in need.
In addition, Malek recalls a strong lady who told him his music had helped her go through some of the worst times in her life. Because she spoke out against Assad’s horrific tyranny, she was tortured and treated inhumanely in jail. To ease the agony of her suffering, “she would hum my music,” Malek explains.
After hearing the woman’s extraordinary and painful tale and seeing the young girl’s beaming face, Malek was convinced of music’s transformative power. Even though they exist only in his mind, he values these anecdotes more highly than any material praise.
One-Thumb Pianist and Author of Original Music
Malek plays the piano of his own imprint and composes his own personality. He also considers it his responsibility to share the cultural wealth of his own Syria before it is destroyed forever.
He is now working on his eighth symphony and a full-length opera. According to Malek, his music fuses elements of ancient Mesopotamian melody with traditional Western structures. This helps me in my efforts to pass on my history and culture to the next generation. His most recent symphonies were recorded by Marin Alsop and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.
And Malek has been attempting to give a voice to the voiceless via his music. The goal of his last global tour, “The Voice of the Free Syrian Children,” which included stops at the Sydney Opera House, Carnegie Hall, and the Vienna Konzerthaus, was straightforward. In addition to providing a voice to the voiceless, he hoped that his trip would bring attention to the plight of the children living in refugee camps and inspire others to donate to the cause. “There is nothing that captures the indescribable magic and everlasting impact of music to me more than making my own music on stage and sharing it with the world for such a noble cause,” adds Malek.
Simple Explanation: People
Malek is a guy who gives back to his neighborhood and his fellow citizens. And he’s not just singing to sing; he’s utilizing his music to make the world a better, more equal place. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he calls himself a “Human.” Perhaps this is why he was named a “great immigrant” by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, along with Arianna Huffington, Yo-Yo Ma, and Elon Musk.
Malek’s experience as Pianos for Peace’s chief executive has taught him that “we are all fallible.” However, he also emphasizes that “We are all an integral part of what makes this organization work.” He calls everyone who helps out at Pianos for Peace “Ambassadors for Peace.” They are not workers in his eyes. And Malek thinks that everyone’s job is just as important as his own in the company.
Malek leads the organization’s leadership, board of directors, partners, and corporate contributors in his role as CEO. But he is willing to consider other viewpoints and values input from his group. Every meeting ends with everyone reading anonymous feedback messages, Malek says. Every one of us can up our game and do our part to make the company successful because of this.
Malek puts in over 15 hours a day in the office. His day begins early with a staff meeting where they review the organization’s purpose, strategic objectives, KPIs, and creative approaches to gauging the community’s response to the organization’s activities. After that, he has a series of corporate sponsor and strategic partner lunch meetings scheduled. The operation’s finances, marketing strategy, and budget are all under his watchful eye during afternoon meetings.
Despite working 15-hour days, Malek claims he “never feels like I’m really working.” “Running Pianos for Peace as its CEO is a lot of fun!”
Dedication to Widening Participation in the Arts
Pianos for Peace is delivering important arts programs to impoverished schools and elder care homes as part of their mission to provide access to the arts. “We have shown that creating a world at peace is possible one step at a time,” adds Malek. “We can begin constructing that future today through careful planning and dedication to our goals.”
Short-term objectives for Pianos for Peace include expanding the board to include more directors and ensuring the organization’s financial stability. The strategy and influence of the organization are crucial to the long-term goal.
Malek explains that they have started using the same methodology used in Atlanta in other places including Oregon, Vermont, and North Carolina. They’ve expanded outside the United States as well, making their first trip abroad in Sydney, Australia. Malek claims that they want to continue expanding internationally.
“The more people to whom we can expose the healing power of music, the closer we’ll be to building peace,” Malek says, adding that “music changes people, and people change the world.”
“All of us joined and singing in harmony; that is the road map to constructing peace through music.”