by | Hannah Rehak ’15

For some students, study away is a time to jump into new experiences, and for others it’s a time to dive deeper into old passions. For Sarah Dillard ’15 (Seattle) and Diana Rosenzweig ’15 (Ann Arbor, Mich.), a semester spent in Amman, Jordan, was a lucky combination of both.

Although they had planned to immerse themselves in coursework and independent research during their SIT study-away program, they never expected to join a choir while abroad. But when, during the first week of classes, they heard about open auditions for local chorus Dozan wa Awtar, the Macalester Concert Choir veterans impulsively taxiied across Amman to try out, just hours after learning of the opportunity.

Dillard and Rosenzweig were nervous at first, but were soon happily distracted by a spontaneous sing-along that broke out among those waiting to audition. Instantly, Dillard and Rosenzweig knew they wanted to be a part of the Dozan wa Awtar community, and luckily enough, Dozan wa Awtar wanted them, too.

Dozan wa Awtar is a world-renowned vocal group composed of both Jordanians and ex-pats. With a diverse membership and an American director, the group spans religions, cultures, and nationalities, leading to a community built on trust, communication, and a joy of music. According to Rosenzweig, nonverbal communication as simple as eye contact was enough to build friendships.  Dillard adds that she found bonding through music to be as powerful as any conversation.

Over the course of the semester Dillard and Rosenzweig, along with the group’s 45 other members, sang at schools, churches, orphanages, and malls. As their Arabic vocabularies grew—thanks to their homestays—their pronunciation also improved, thanks to singing solely in Arabic. They made friends both inside and outside the classroom and spent much of their free time at game nights, bar outings, and dinners on the town with choir friends.

At the end of the semester, their study abroad program finished, Dillard and Rosenzweig prepared to go on a weeklong tour with the choir before heading home. Unfortunately, a heavy and unexpected snowstorm hit Amman, thus preventing the women from both traveling and saying their goodbyes. But, as they’d come to learn, the Dozan wa Awtar community is a strong one, and when Rosenzweig needed a place to stay for the night, stranded far from the airport, it was a choir friend she called upon to rescue her.

Today, more than a year later, both Dillard and Rosenzweig use Facebook to follow Dozan’s concerts, radio shows, and television appearances. And though they hadn’t planned their hellos to the group and they missed their goodbyes, both plan to sing with their Dozan family again someday.

February 19 2015

Back to top