The First Year

The Doha Community Music Ensembles (DCME) was founded in October 2005. At that time, lessons were available on some instruments in Doha, but there was no opportunity for players to get together in an ensemble. Two music teachers, Kathy Stuart and Lesley McBright, decided to see if the gap could be filled.

The vision was to build a full symphony orchestra for the whole community, adults and children, and they started by recruiting string players. Tem young violin and cello players attended the first rehearsal at Doha College, conducted by Kathy, with lesley accompanying on piano. Gradually more string players joined and with the addition of wind players some six months later, the DCME had already outgrown the rehearsal room at Doha College.

DCME moved to The American School of Doha (ASD) where it rehearsed until 2016 (?). DCME’s first performance was in February 2006 during the Annual ASD Friendship Festival. This was followed in May 2006 by the first public concert at Qatar Academy. Doha had an orchestra!

Towards a full Symphony Orchestra

Director Kathy Stuart left Doha after the first year of the DCME and Mark Seay, Head of Instrumental Music at ASD, took over the baton in September 2006. When Lesley McBright left a year later, flute player Pat Smith took over the administration of the DCME, helped by a committee of volunteers.

Gradually, the orchestra grew to around 45 members with most symphony orchestra instruments represented. The members, aged 6 to 60, came from many different schools and companies in Doha, and also from many different countries: from Great Britain and the USA to the Philippines and the Faroe Islands. The DCME put on a Festive and a Summer concert every season, most of which were in the newly-built Fine Arts Auditorium at ASD. Concerts were given together with The Doha Singers, Doha’s long-standing community choral society. Other DCME performances included taking part in a fundraising concert at the Sheraton Hotel in the presence of Britain’s Prince Charles (2007), and an outdoor performance as part of Doha’s Wheels ‘n Heels charity event (2008).

In order to support the orchestra’s growing activities, sponsorship was sought from Doha-based companies. The oil and gas company ConocoPhillips agreed to become the DCME’s main sponsor in 2008, and a logo and website were launched soon after. Sponsorship funds also enabled the DCME to invite three musicians from the US-based organization Cultures in Harmony to Doha. Violinist William Harvey and two of his colleagues worked with DCME for one week, the culmination being a joint concert of chamber and orchestral works.

By 2009 the DCME was no longer playing easy arrangements of music, and entry was by audition. The orchestra was ready to move up a level.


Two Ensembles

In September 2008 cultural life in Qatar took a sudden step forward with the founding of the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra (QPO). This was Qatar’s first resident professional orchestra, with musicians hired from many different countries. The DCME has benefited from the influx of expertise, and QPO musicians have helped out with both playing and coaching. Brita Fray, a viola player, music director and teacher from Chicago gave specialist coaching to the DCME strings, and, in September 2009, took over the position of orchestra director.

In the meantime, a second ensemble had been created: a wind band. It was apparent that there were more wind players in the community than could be accommodated in a symphony orchestra so a seperate group was founded in 2009. Mark Seay was the first Wind Band Director, with Sanford Jones, Head of Middle School Instrumental Music at ASD, taking over in September 2009.

Between 2009 and 2011, the total number of players in the two ensembles rose to around 80, with all orchestra and band instruments represented. Concerts featured the DCME, the Wind Band, and the Doha Singers, with some joint projects being prepared, such as selections from Handel’s The Messiah in December 2010. The DCME also went “on tour” twice in Qatar to perform at Dukhan School and at Al Khor Community. The closing concert of the sixth season, in April 2011, was a highly successful Gershwin programme with guest pianist Mert Esen playing Rhapsody in Blue. This was Sanford Jones’ final concert and the successor to his post at ASD, Jim Kulpa, has also taken over the Wind Band.

Summer 2011, start of a new Era

From summer 2011, the DCME took a step up in Qatar’s cultural life. A new website had been launched and the orchestra now had a presence on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

Compared to 2005, the DCME is almost unrecognizable from the modest starting ensemble. The vision of the founding members has long been achieved and surpassed. The community in Doha is transient, and a number of DCME’s members leave every year. However, the existence of the ensemble is a permanent feature in the community life in Doha.