- Associated Press - Sunday, June 8, 2014

MIDDLEBURY, Conn. (AP) - The Taliban had completely banned music in Afghanistan, destroying instruments with hand grenades and even jailing those who dared to listen to songs on the radio.

Since the regime was toppled, the United States and its allies have been helping to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and restore its culture. This summer, the husband and wife team of Kevin and Holly Bishop are joining the cause.

Holly, a music teacher at Memorial Middle and Long Meadow Elementary schools in Middlebury, and Kevin, a music teacher at the Hartt School Community Division at the University of Hartford, will visit Afghanistan for four weeks, in a trip funded by the U.S. Embassy.

“After the fall of the Taliban regime, the culture was devastated,” Kevin said.

Two years ago, the Bishops started the organization, Cuatro Puntos (four points, in Spanish), to do outreach projects and concerts throughout the world.

The New Britain couple worked with the Youth Orchestra in Bolivia last year and will teach at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul this summer.

Kevin said he and his wife are more excited than nervous about their trip.

“When people think of Afghanistan, they think of fighting,” Kevin said. “When we tell them we’re going, everyone’s taken aback, ‘How can you do a thing like that?’ For everything bad you read about, there are 100 good things happening in Afghanistan.”

“Everybody here thinks Afghanistan is a violent place. We’re trying to change the perception on both sides.”

After the Afghanistan trip, the Bishops are going to Bolivia and Brazil.

In Afghanistan, fathers are the breadwinners. But when heads of households die in the fighting, their children sell items like plastic bags and gum in the streets to support their families, Holly said.

Staff members of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music approach these children and ask them if they want an education in music. For those who do, the institute will offer the families the amount of money their children would likely earn on the street in exchange for allowing their children to go to school.

The institute has 170 students, who also receive a general education in a country with a high rate of illiteracy, according to Kevin.

Holly said, “It’s one of the few schools where boys and girls are treated equally and have an education.”

“They were taught to hate the West,” Kevin said. “Now they’re taught you can have your culture and respect others.”

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