Published: July 24, 2017
Allegra Boggess ('07)

In January earlier this year, Afganistan's first all-female orchestra, Zohra, performed at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Instrumental to the development of this program and this event was CU Boulder Alumna Allegra Boggess ('07) who travelled to Afghanistan in 2011 to teach music to Afghanistani students. In 2014, Boggess encouraged her students to form the ensemble, and this recent performance marks the group's international debut!

Christie Sounart reports for the Coloradan

"Afghan music sounded from the orchestra in Davos, Switzerland. From the concert hall’s front row, Allegra Boggess (Mus’07) listened with pride, and cried. The 30 young women on stage were making history.

Zohra, Afghanistan’s first all-female orchestra, kicked off its debut European tour at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in January. Boggess, their mentor, flew from Colorado to help supervise the student musicians, the youngest of whom was 12. For her, the performance culminated five years’ work at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM), the country’s only music school.

'I don't think I've ever felt so proud or so grateful in my entire life,' said Boggess, a pianist who moved from Denver to Afghanistan in 2011. 'I was proud of each one of those girls, especially remembering how hard they worked over the many rehearsals we had and how many battles they fought at home, in their community and in society in general to get where they are now.'

Named after a Persian music goddess, Zohra was formed at ANIM in 2014. Boggess, 33, was a teacher in the school and helped encourage the young women to form the ensemble after they requested special Afghan arrangements to play on their own.


Boggess, an experienced pianist and oboist, learned traditional Afghan music from her colleagues and began arranging folk songs for her students to play on the piano. In time, she provided music and instruction to the Zohra Orchestra.

With Afghan and other international colleagues, she worked six days a week, often spending free time practicing with students who wouldn’t bring their instruments home for fear of public rebuke.At times, other CU alumni served as guest teachers alongside Boggess, including cellist Kimberly Patterson (DMus’12), her husband, guitarist Patrick Sutton (DMus’14), and conductor Joel Schut(MMus’12).

'Even with the unstable political environment, ANIM has become a beacon of hope in war-torn Afghanistan,' said Patterson, now a professor at the University of Memphis."

Congratulations to Allegra and to the members of Zohra on their amazing work!

The full Coloradan article can be found here