TODAY   |  February 09, 2013

Afghan orphans find hope in music, performing

Music was once banned under the Taliban, but now the U.S. State Department, the World Bank and other supporters are giving young children the opportunity to play traditional music, and even learn new instruments. NBC’s Michelle Franzen reports.

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>>> music has the power to bring people together in sometimes unexpected ways. andrea mitchell now with the story of a group of young musicians from a place you might not expect.

>> reporter: 13-year-old laila has been waiting two years for this moment.

>> reporter: the chance to perform on the world stage. while breaking another taliban taboo -- girls and boys playing music together. which do you like better, the drums or the trumpet? which is more fun?

>> the drums.

>> reporter: she's one of 48 young musicians who attend the only music school in afghanistan . where music was strictly banned under taliban rule.

>> reporter: many in the group are orphans by war. some even lived on the streets. today there are nearly -- they're near 7,000 miles from home, bringing traditional signs from their homeland --

>> reporter: and the tambore. mixed with the western harmonies they're also learning.

>> reporter: organizers hope the young musicians can learn about america and america can learn about afghanistan . music is making a comeback.

>> to the future afghanistan , show an afghanistan where the children of the country are, the future. and the hope is not dead.

>> reporter: how does it feel to be playing your music here in america ?

>> i think very well --

>> reporter: he played role of diplomat with others meeting the new secretary of state. once an amateur musician himself.

>> when i was your age, i played in a rock band .

>> reporter: their conductor, william harvey , a juliard-trained american violinist, has spent the last three years in kabul.

>> what i've done with the afghan youth orchestra is taken masterpieces like the "four seasons" and added afghan melodies, instruments, and folks songs.

>> reporter: the group has done improvisation of its own.

>> we were playing "stairway to heaven" which we're familiar with. and so it's fun.

>> reporter: the main event , performing thursday night on the stage of the kennedy center 's concert hall .

>> coming here has been the fulfillment of a long-time dream for us. the biggest reward is the smiles on these children's faces.