Leading article: A healing power

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Nigel Osborne, Professor of Music at Edinburgh University, is one of those remarkable individuals who was practising "multi-tasking" a long time before the term entered the managerial lexicon. Composer, academic, musician and human rights activist, Professor Osborne spends much of what others might regard as his hard-earned free time taking music to unlikely parts of the world in an effort to bring calm to troubled young souls.

While his works have been performed in some of the most hallowed shrines of music making, Professor Osborne's travels increasingly take him to rougher places. His most recent contribution, as we report today, is to a project in the Balata Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank. Balata is probably the most overcrowded camp in the region, and one that has experienced some of the greatest bloodshed in the past six years of the conflict with Israel.

Professor Osborne advocates music-making as therapy for children who have been traumatised by war. He requires little in the way of instruments or scores. His secret is his enthusiasm, sense of purpose and force of character - and his belief that music is a universal language. The West Bank project, whose benefits are already apparent, follows successful musical ventures elsewhere, including former Yugoslavia.

As founder of Edinburgh's Music in the Community programme, Professor Osborne has long specialised in taking music to unlikely places, including public buildings and prisons. But his concern about the long-term effect of armed conflict on the next generation now frequently takes him abroad. Unfortunately, the state of the world means that he is unlikely to run out of new projects soon.

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