My name is John Khalil. I’m now 33 years old and I live in Oakland, CA. When I was young, I was always a dreamer. It probably started back around 1988 when my father took me to an Egyptian wedding. I saw all kinds of instruments that I’d never heard before. The look, the sounds, and the vibrancy were intoxicating. I was hooked! Right then and there, I dreamed that one day that I’d be able work with musicians in Egypt and the Middle East.
That, however, seemed like a far off dream considering where I was at in the world. You see, I was born in a small rural town of farmers and railroad workers called Villa Grove, IL. The population: 2,000 – 98 % of them blue-collar folks! My mother was born in the United States. Her mother came to this farm town in 1947 from Yugoslavia after World War II. My dad is from Alexandria, Egypt, the son of an Egyptian Air Force man and a loving homemaker mother. He actually met my mom while he had to do community service for getting busted with a pot plant on his balcony. A neighbor who didn’t like him called the police. He was assigned community service at the Champaign County Nursing Home where my mom was employed as a dietician. Lucky for me that he got busted; because there is practically no reason a 20 something year old student from Egypt would ever hang around a nursing home! But anyway, not to digress, let’s get back to the dream…
Both my mom and uncle were musicians. I must have gotten my musical abilities from her side of the family because my father couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. Tom Tewell, my mom’s brother, was a Rock ‘n’ Roll guitar player. Over his early teens and twenties he played in a ton of bands. At one point his band “Twister” needed a keyboard player, so he recruited my mom. I was completely surrounded by people whose passion for music couldn’t be ignored. I was inspired! From there my uncle taught me the guitar and bass. After that it was recording and sound engineering. Soon enough, playing music became a part of my life too. Maybe the biggest part.
But why am I telling you all this? There’s a reason music dominated my life and it’s much more important than the sound of a good tune. It served a greater function. Besides the sweet melody of a good jam, music gave me a voice. It was a social soapbox in which people like myself could voice their opinions to an audience without becoming tied to a particular interest group. Music was the language of the world and people were using it to create real change for social issues. I knew with an instrument in my hand, I could do the same thing.
Surely as the artist in me grew and improved I also decided to learn the skills of doing a live show and event form the production standpoint. In high school I started working for my mom and uncles southern rock band on the weekends. I learned live audio, lighting, production and many other valuable skills that I use today in my professional life. In fact I now own and run an A/V company called Diamond Entertainment & Arts. I operate out of the SF Bay Area and mostly do private events, fundraisers, weddings and the like.
Now each of those little steps and milestones in my life somehow led me on a zig-zaggy yellow brick road to a quaint coffee shop for an inspirational speaker’s series by a non-profit called Dalai Lama Fellows. We were posted up at a cool and quaint coffee shop located somewhere in Potrero Hill. I was working as a sound tech, recording the speeches and providing some small sound gear. Amidst the attendees was a nice Egyptian guy named Paul, who was working the event as a photographer. We both chatted and were amused by the fact that we both had Egyptian ancestry and both loved to produce music. We exchanged emails and in passing said we should link up and work on something musical.
Flash forward to a couple months ago when I received an email from Paul regarding a project that was born out of concerned after seeing video footage online of the massacre of 21 Coptic Egyptians in Libya. We talked about speaking out against religious persecution and violent acts against these refugees. We asked each other how we could be of any help – our voices were surely our greatest weapons. So he introduced me to a project, more an idea at the time, called the Noon Project. Months later, we the Noon Project team have started to take action on these ideas and goals and are building something that people from all places and corners can participate in, by creating music that speak about the things that matter, with a goal to give aid to the oppressed.
Isn’t it amazing what can happen if you dream a little? What can happen if you use your voice to manifest positive change? How lucky did I get that I can use my music to help someone else’s aspirations come true?
Guess that kid who dreamed was on to something.
John Khalil is on the Production team of the Noon Project. He is an Event Manager with over 15 years experience in live events, artist management and studio production. He currently resides in Oakland, CA where he operates and A/V production company called Diamond Entertainment and Arts. He also lends his management and event services whether as a paid position or volunteer with Jazz Mafia, Crossroads Live Music Experience, Treat Social Club and Vau de Vire Society.