Like many teenage boys, Tambi Cimuk visited the Lincoln Memorial and the White House on his first visit to Washington. Unlike most teenagers, he also played Rachmaninoff in the Rayburn Foyer.
“Oh my God, yeah, he is very unbelievable,” Cimuk said when asked if Rachmaninoff is his favorite composer. “Russian music is special, it’s very powerful.”
The 16-year-old Cimuk was just one part of the “Safe Harbor Turkey: Restoring Hope for Syrian Refugees” event Thursday, but he certainly provided the highlight, performances of Mozart’s Sonata in C Major K. 330, Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C Sharp Minor and the famously challenging Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov.
Arranged by the Embassy of Turkey, the event featured photos, food and the famous piano prodigy to draw attention to the 1.7 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. Cimuk, a Syrian refugee who is now a Turkish citizen and one of his country’s musical prodigies, has found himself traveling the globe not just to compete musically, but to help raise awareness of the Syrian refugee crisis.
At the “Safe Harbor” event, Turkish Ambassador Serdar Kılıç discussed the refugees’ plight and advocated for a no-fly zone, sentiments reiterated by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif.
Rep. Edward Whitfield, R-Ky., co-chairman of the Turkey-U.S. Congressional Caucus, praised Turkey for efforts on refugee care as well.
Meanwhile, the human face of the event, Cimuk, also discussed with HOH the thing that had brought him there: his music. He practices four to five hours a day during the school week, but up to eight hours when he doesn’t have classes.
He joked if he doesn’t practice, “My teacher will kill me … you know, she’s Russian … she is very disciplined, Russian disciplined,” he said, laughing.
He hopes one day to continue his studies at the Long Island Conservatory. Competing with other students his age, Cimuk said, is “a very beautiful thing to make contact with other musicians your age. … Even if I don’t understand his language, our common language is the music. It’s beautiful.”
Correction 4: 10 p.m. An earlier version of this post misstated the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey.
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