Young Hands and Voices Concert

Showcases the next generation of musical talent

The month of May 2024, saw the city of Al Ain host an incredible musical extravaganza, the Young Hands and Voices Concert (6th Edition), where junior musicians from around the UAE came together to perform their hearts out to an eager crowd. This segment of the Al Ain Music Festival is a much-anticipated event amongst the community of Al Ain. 

Over the years, this concert’s popularity quickly expanded beyond the local community, attracting attendees and participants from across the UAE, including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Ras Al Khaimah. Yaremi explained that the selection process for the concert is based on auditions where the performer submits a video for consideration. “This year we had a recorded number of over 100 audition submissions and 50 performances were selected for the final event from Uptown International School, Bloom World Academy, Diyafah International School, Safa Community School, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, Gems Our own English High School, Repton School Abu Dhabi, Dubai College, Brighton College Al Ain, and the hosting school, Al Ain British Academy” she recalls. 

The program showcased a diverse range of musical genres, moving beyond classical music to include musical theatre, pop, and choral pieces. A hard-working team of teachers were part of the event: Yaima Cruz Castillo, Dunia Gonzalez Romeo, Cleydis Tena Figeroa,  Rosa Maria Aguila Mendoza, Maridalia Fernandez, Aylin Aguila, Idorka Bracho, Ilya Netkach, Chiara De Paula and Sarah Martinez Rebollo, work tirelessly to bring this concert to fruition, supporting their pupils every step of the way. 

Yaima Castillo, one of the teachers who have participated since the first edition explained that she looks forward to this concert every year. “I prepare my students for the auditions and root for them to take part because these opportunities are unique and unforgettable”. This is the consensus among the amazing music teachers who give up their weekend to be part of this event. Dunia Gonzalez another music teacher who has committed to participate every year said “I took part for the first time when I was teaching here in Al Ain, and then I moved to Uptown International School in Dubai.  I made sure that my students in Dubai took part in this concert as well, as I see the value of these events and how exciting these opportunities are for young performers.”

The Young Hands and Voices Concert was born in 2016 out of the desire of Yaremi Ledesma Alvarez, a music teacher from Cuba, to create a dedicated space for young performers in Al Ain. After graduating from Cuba’s Music and Art School system, she was used to performing in theatres, auditoriums, music festivals and events outside the school during her forming years. Yaremi explained that “This is where the true performing skills are forged, the confidence is nurtured and where the music student discovers their performance identity in front of the audience.” After relocating to the UAE in 2005 and working within the school music system, she noticed that musical activities were predominantly confined to schools. Recitals and end-of-year concerts took place, but there was a lack of opportunities for children to perform publicly, even during the Al Ain Music Festival (AAMF). Recognising this gap, she initiated the first Young Hands and Voices Concert in 2016 at the Al Qattara Art Centre. 

The Young Hands and Voices Concert quickly became a staple of the AAMF, continuing annually and growing in popularity until the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the tradition for 2 years.  The concert venues have varied over the years: in 2017, it was held at the Al Ain British Academy Auditorium; in 2018, at La Dolce Vita; in 2019, at Danat Resort; in 2023, at Zayed Central Library; and in 2024, it returned to the Al Ain British Academy. The Young Hands and Voices Concert has consistently been the most attended event of the AAMF, celebrating and nurturing young musical talent in the community. Yaremi also acknowledged the important contributions by La Dolce Vita as the AAMF organiser to make these events possible. Music centers like LDV play a vital role in supporting the growth of young talent.

The event was another successful night of music led by children and their dedicated music teachers, highlighting the broad talents of young performers from all over the nation. Looking back to the concert and talking about the future ones, Yaremi says: “My wish for the young performer’s community is that they follow their passion in music and arts and take these opportunities to grow their confidence and refine their craft. Every minute spent learning an instrument or nurturing a singing voice is all worth it in the end” 

Quotes from parent/ students

“My daughter who is 4 years old had a chance to perform, we did not mind the drive to Al Ain to take part because this is the type of opportunity that is inspirational for a young musician to be part of” expressed Rosa Maria, mother of Victoria, the youngest performer at the concert at only 4 years old. 

Destiny Thor, a recurrent performer in this event since she was only 7 years old, sang a beautiful rendition of “Somewhere over the Rainbow”. When asked about her experience at the concert over the past year, she said “Although it is a challenge to step in front of a crowded auditorium to sing, the experience is very rewarding. It is exciting to perform in front of an audience and meet other performers from different schools”