The following is an excerpt from "Girl Squads: 20 Female Friendships That Changed History” written by Sam Maggs and illustrated by Jenn Woodall.
“Girl Squads” celebrates female friendships throughout history and the world. In this excerpt, we learn about Zohra, the first all-girls orchestra in Afghanistan.
The date is Jan. 20, 2017. At 6:30 p.m., a 16-year-old girl sits on stage with her violin resting on her knee. She wipes a sweaty palm on her dress and looks up at her conductor — another girl, close to her in age — who raises her baton. The violin comes up, tucks snugly under her chin; the bow rests on the strings, waiting for the conductor’s signal to pull down and sound the first note. A mix of nerves and excitement fills her belly as she looks out into the darkness of the audience. She knows people are out there, watching her and the other girls in the orchestra. They’ve been practicing a long time for this. And they’re ready.
So what’s so remarkable about this? A similar scene probably plays out over and over again in cities around the world, from professional concert halls to auditoriums full of middle-schoolers in uncomfortable white shirts and black dress pants (and camera-wielding parents ready to embarrass them). Girls playing in a school band is nothing special. Right?
Right. Unless those girls are from Afghanistan, where girls are rarely allowed to attend school, let alone music school, and where all music was banned for years. Where a girl has never before held a conductor’s baton. The ensemble onstage on this January evening is Zohra, the first all-girls orchestra from Afghanistan; the performance, in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, is the closing concert of the 47th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, in front of 2,000 world leaders. And they’re about to make every person in the room cry.