When we arrived at the girls’ school, we unloaded our gear from the van, and then asked to set down our instruments in the courtyard for a moment. We were told that the students had prepared a traditional Saudi Arabian Sword Dance to welcome us for the day. With silver blades shining in the midday sunlight, banging drums, and the biggest smiles you can imagine, the girls danced the steps they’d prepared for us guests. The hospitality and excitement with which we are treated here is unique and special.
After the ceremonial greeting, we were ushered inside the school to have lunch with the U.S. Consul General in Dhahran. She was friendly, a great conversationalist, and I noticed she recalled the students’ names who were present after they’d introduced themselves to her. She paid close attention to the kids, and the kids loved her. Name memory – seemingly so small… yet so rare. It really stood out to me.
After lunch, the students and staff were waiting in the common area for our concert to begin. Girls from elementary age to teens to teachers all packed into the cacophonous common assembly space.
They shared a brief video about the school that documented the girls working with advanced robotics, and learning about the circulatory and nervous systems of the human body – this was a specialized STEM school with high standards, and just an amazingly impressive group of young people to say the least.
After the video, the band took the stage, and I could feel a palpably important moment happening. There was an extraordinary interest and an immediate, electric connection from the room, as I shared about our music, our tour, and especially about my long road as a professional guitar player with adaptive methods. A clear, fresh message overtook me as I looked at the ceiling around the room, decorated in quotes from history’s greatest minds, and looked out at the eager students’ faces.
You see, as a background, it wasn’t long ago that something you probably regard as commonplace where you are – women driving cars – was forbidden in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Now, I’m told it is legal, but still not fully welcome here in areas outside of bigger cities. With this context, I hope you can understand and even feel what it was like to be in that particular room of young women… It was powerful, and you could feel a definite strength.
As we sang our song, “ I Am Never, Never, Never Gonna Give Up,” it was so loud that the band could barely be heard over the students as they shouted along.
We closed with the pop mega-hit, “Roar,” and it somehow raised the volume in the room even louder (see video above). While we were playing, I looked at the band and knew we all felt the same: Something is happening in Saudi Arabia, we had a front row seat this week, and we are beyond grateful to be witnesses and to be some small part of it all.
“You’re gonna hear me rooooar!”