Gehad al-Khaldi to head Saudi Music Authority
RIYADH - Gehad al-Khaldi has been appointed CEO of the Saudi Music Authority, an important step in establishing the authority’s mission to develop the music sector in Saudi Arabia.
Khaldi’s musical experience spans 33 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in violin and music theory from the Higher Institute of Music in Cairo and has played for eight years as a violinist in the Egyptian Orchestra. She was the second Saudi, after Ghazi Ali, to receive a certificate from the academy. Khaldi also has management experience.
Khaldi thanked Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan for his confidence in her appointment and promised to work towards fulfilling the Ministry of Culture’s aspirations in the music sector and building infrastructure that will spread music education in the country and develop general musical awareness and artistic taste.
“I started out on my musical journey at the age of 8, when my mother enrolled me in the Music Academy upon the recommendation of a private music teacher,” Khaldi said. “He told her that I had an ear for music and that I was talented.
“Because my mother believed in formal education, she enrolled me at the right academic place that qualifies talents and teaches them music formally and academically.”
Her choice to study violin was partly dictated by the fact that the instrument was a component of the test to enter the academy and partly by the challenge the instrument presents.
“This instrument is one of the most difficult and most accurate instruments ever,” she explained. “It requires technique, skill, study and training for a long time so that a player can become good at it. You need to develop the skills of a professional player.
“I studied music for 18 years. I began at the elementary level and continued until my university graduation from the academy. I have a degree in violin and musical education.”
She continued: “Music has never been a hobby in my life. It is a science, requiring effort and perseverance and the passion of my life. It is one of the most difficult jobs requiring training, persistence and being up to the challenge. I have never stopped playing and practising music, not even for one day.”
Khaldi said she is looking forward to the day when music learning and teaching become core subjects in school curricula, just like mathematics and other essential subjects.
Khaldi said she was once of the opinion that the biggest difficulty facing music in Saudi Arabia was the absence of a national strategy to have it taught formally. There were no official agencies to issue permits to specialised teaching institutions that could formally educate and train talented youngsters.
“The importance of teaching music to children, whether talented or not talented, has been proven scientifically,” she said. “Music helps them become creative and is beneficial to their intellectual, sensory and mental development.
“Teaching music in schools requires the establishment within universities of colleges specialising in music education, so that, every four years, we have new batches of graduates qualified to teach music in schools because this is different from teaching it to talented people who would be choosing a career in music. Teaching schoolchildren requires specific pedagogical methods.”
Besides wishing for the creation of a specialised academy similar to what she said she found in other countries, Khaldi is also in favour of formalising the licensing of private music schools. However, she makes a difference between preparing professionals and educating amateurs.
“As we start preparing the relevant legislation to license music schools, I hope that we’ll differentiate between specialised institutes whose output will be internationally qualified professionals and private institutions that help in developing talent,” she said. “The owner of this specialised institute for professionals must be qualified, scientifically and academically, and not just an amateur and this is what will differentiate between amateurs and professionals.”
Saudi musicians reacted enthusiastically to Khaldi’s appointment. They said she is worthy of the appointment but warned she will be shouldering a great responsibility because her actions will be foundational and are expected to raise the music scene in Saudi Arabia to new levels.
Followers of Saudi music affairs expressed hope for joint efforts between the Music Authority and the Saudi National Orchestra. They said they sought music specialists to develop appropriate strategies and organisational standards.
“Who would have believed this only a few years ago?” asked Saudi novelist Latifa al-Shaalan. “A Saudi Music Authority and headed by a woman, too!”
Through the new Music Authority, the Ministry of Culture seeks to regulate and develop the kingdom’s music sector and support and encourage musicians. It is to work with authorities to protect intellectual property rights in areas related to music, in addition to organising training courses and adopting professional programmes and encouraging music professionals and amateurs to develop musical content.
The Music Authority is one of 11 bodies introduced by the Ministry of Culture to develop various cultural sectors that were included in its vision document released last March.