British Columbia

Syrian refugee revives musical career in Victoria

Sari Alesh once played violin with the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra. After leaving his home in the war-torn country, the 31-year-old is now rebuilding his life in Victoria.

Sari Alesh used to play concert violin but was forced to stop when the war broke out

Sari Alesh, a Syrian refugee and violinist, is reviving his musical career in his new home in Victoria. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Hundreds of Syrian refugees are now settled in B.C. For some, a new life means finding jobs and going to school. 

For Sari Alesh, it means playing music again. 

The 31-year-old played with the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra for six years and went on tours in Europe and the Middle East. 

But when the war broke out, Alesh stopped playing the violin for several years.

He spent the early years of the war with his family in Damascus, and then fled to Turkey in 2014. From there, he applied for refugee status in Canada and arrived in Victoria in February 2016. 

New life in Canada 

Within two months of arriving, Alesh was playing in front of audiences again and was given a scholarship to the Victoria Conservatory of Music. He's also studying English at UVIC, so that he can eventually work towards a Master's degree in music.

"I'm so glad I'm here in Victoria. Canadian people support me so much," Alesh said to host Gregor Craigie on CBC's On The Island. In general, Canadian people have opened their hearts, their wallets, their homes to all the Syrian people."

Alesh used to teach in Syria, and he's hoping to teach music to children with Down syndrome in Victoria come September. 

Since moving to Victoria, he has taken up an interest in fiddle music. 

"I love to play it. And they tell me it's Canadian music."

Music, he says, helps him stay positive.

"Music helps to introduce me to the world ... I love it so much."

With files from CBC's On the Island

To hear the full story listen to the audio labelled: Syrian violinist Sari Alesh and his new life in Canada.