Asylum Seekers Center, Lucerne (CH)


The project in Summary

Twice we have had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with the transitory guests of the Sonnenhof asylum-seekers center in Lucerne, Switzerland. In 2011, most of the guests were sub-Saharan Africans. In 2014, the guests were mostly Syrian Kurds. We played musical games with the children and performed for all of the residents.  They cooked for us, and hours were spent sharing personal stories in an atmosphere of intense warmth, frustration, and hope.



Refugees and asylum seekers, families and men, awaiting permission to remain in Switzerland or to go to another safe haven in Europe. Approximately 150 are in residence at a time.

An ensemble of musicians from the Human Rights Orchestra. On the second visit, students of the secondary school Kantonsschule Reussbühl attended, and two of them performed with the professional musicians. An expert music workshop leader and trainer from Musicians Without Borders engaged the children in musical games with the musicians.


On both occasions we performed music we are best capable of sharing, classical music. For the group that was comprised mainly of Syrian Kurds, the program included music by composers who themselves were immigrants, or whose music was banned, or, in the instance of Rudolf Karel, perished in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. The other composers represented were Mendelssohn, Ligeti, and Bartok. We spoke about the lives of the composers, and a young resident translated the comments first into Arabic and then into Kurdish.


The intensity of engagement and pleasure among the guests and musicians was palpable. During and after lunch we played games, shared stories, and laughed together. Change was as profound for the musicians as it seemed for the guests of the center. Our percussionist said that it was one of the most meaningful musical encounters of his life. We were enriched while we were trying to enrich others.


Otto Jung of Musicians Without Borders guiding the children and musicians in musical games