Student Profile: Farzin Dehghan, Overton High School
We often hear that music is a bridge that connects people. Overton High School senior Farzin Dehghan understands the phrase in all of its complexity. For him, music is a cultural bridge that keeps him connected to his homeland in Iran and extends further back into the mists of history and his Persian roots. It has connected and strengthened family ties, particularly with his older brother, Afshar–himself a musician and music teacher. And it has been a bridge connecting him to his new life in America.
For the many young people in the mid-state who grew up in one town or city and many times spent their lives in one house, in one neighborhood, surrounded by the same group of friends, it may be hard to imagine life on the move as a refugee and immigrant.
In the Farci language of his native Iran, Farzin’s name recognizes him as the son of a farmer. As members of the Ba’hai faith, his family moved as refugees into Turkey in 2010 and began the application process for a move to the United States. Farzin moved to America in 2011 with his parents and three brothers (Farshid, Afshar and Farzad), while a fourth brother and his family remained in Iran.
“In Turkey, we had several interviews with lots of security questions,” Farzin recalls, adding, “We also had to take 10 shots before coming here.”
Farzin says, as a student, the move to America was exciting for him. “Here, I would get to study and get an education and gain new perspectives. I fell in love with country music.” But there was one major problem. “I couldn’t speak English. The first day, a teacher asked ‘How are you?’ and I answered, ‘Yes.’” But as a member of the soccer team, he couldn’t join the conversations of teammates and decided he had to learn this language quickly. Now fluent in English, he maintains good grades and a reputation as a top soccer player, including Rookie of the Year (freshman) and All District (sophomore). After taking a year off to focus on his music, he is back on the field and hopes to make All State as a senior. “Students at Overton know me as a soccer player,” he says.
Around Nashville, he is known as a talented musician with a promising career. Farzin interned with the Nashville Symphony and has performed around the city, including the plaza stage for the symphony’s all day music festival last fall. Another highlight was the presentation of his music last spring through the prestigious TED Talk.
“‘Growing up, my brother Afshar was the first to take me to music classes, and he was the one who didn’t give up on me when my practice at home was just noise,” Farzin recalls, laughing. His abilities grew and his sound became exquisite. Today, in a city of guitars, Farzin captivates audiences with the haunting and beautiful sounds of the Persian kamānche (a three string, bowed instrument) and the rhythmic beats of the daf (an ancient frame drum).
“My first goal was to become a great musician like Kayhan Kalhor,” Farzin says. Kalhor, an internationally-acclaimed musician is the Maestro of the kamanche. As a composer, too, he has added to the rich history of Persian music tradition, including compositions and performances for the Silk Road with Yo-Yo Ma.
“If I was going to be like him, I knew I would have to be the best. That meant one thing–I had to catch up,” Farzin says. From reading his hero’s biography, to working to develop his own skills through constant practice, to actually meeting and talking with his hero (including an invitation to meet with Kayhan Kalhor in Baltimore several weeks ago), Farzin has explored his craft and the dynamics of building a career in music. At the local level, too, Farzin has built a network of support among musicians and composers. “I want to be ready for any opportunity,” he says.
In addition to performance, Farzin would like to compose and is particularly attracted to the idea of composing for motion pictures. He has applied to several top universities, including Cal Berkeley. His vision is clear, his talent continues to grow and gain recognition and his future is unlimited, with new opportunities to share these delicate, soulful and powerful sounds.
“At college, I would like to develop an ensemble of intentional musicians similar to Silk Road. I want to continually find ways to give back to the community and to use music as a bridge to build peace.”