Dr Ahmad Naser Sarmast

2014 Distinguished Alumni Award – Faculty of Arts Dr Ahmad Sarmast (PhD Arts 2005) is a musician and founder and director of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM). A...

2014 Distinguished Alumni Award – Faculty of Arts

Dr Ahmad Sarmast (PhD Arts 2005) is a musician and founder and director of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM).

A native of Afghanistan, Dr Sarmast is a strong believer in the power of music as a force in bringing about social change, transforming lives, and connecting nations and civilisations.

In 2010 this belief led him to establish ANIM, a music school that within a short period of time became one of the most influential educational and cultural entities in Afghanistan and widely known internationally for its unique mission and vision.

Based in Kabul, the organisation empowers Afghan children through education, literacy and music regardless of class, ethnicity or gender.

Dr Sarmast came to Australia as a refugee in 2001 after fleeing his war torn homeland. Music had always been an important part of his life – his father was Afghan composer, conductor and musician, Ustad Sarmast.

Throughout his time in Australia he retained his close links with the Afghan music community, becoming the first in his country to gain a PhD in music.

After 15 years of living in exile, Dr Sarmast returned to Afghanistan to champion a ground-breaking project to revive traditional music education.

A school of music was the heart of Dr Sarmast’s proposal. The school would not only train children in music but provide them with a secondary education.

His plan won the favour of the Afghanistan Minister for Education Mohammad Hanif Atmar who set aside land for the new school as well as committed funding for the renovation and refurbishment of a temporary music school at the former Kabul School of Fine Arts.

Against the odds and showing tremendous courage, Ahmad established ANIM in the ruins of the former school and with virtually no instruments. Despite the physical dangers of working in a conflict zone, including being trapped by crossfire, as well as entrenched prejudice, Dr Sarmast continues to advocate the establishment of a civil society in Afghanistan.

ANIM continues to go from strength to strength, nurturing inter-cultural connections between Afghan musicians and students and their counterparts in Australia and around the world. His work through the institute of music makes a significant contribution to Australia’s commitment to peace and democracy in Afghanistan.

Dr Sarmast has received many accolades honouring his work including the International Music Council Musical Rights Award, the David Chow Humanitarian Award, and the Education Award of the Government of Afghanistan.

In 2013 he was a finalist for Australian of the Year, and was named Person of the year by Radio Azadi, RFE/RL. Recently Dr Sarmast received the Charles Ansbacher Music for All Award.

In addition to his Monash PhD, Dr Sarmast holds a degree in performance and music education and a Masters in Musicology and Ethnomusicology from Moscow State Conservatorium. He is an Honorary Fellow of the National College of Music in London.