Negin Khpolwak, center, conducts during a rehearsal of Zohra, Afghanistan’s first all-female orchestra. The group is trying to change attitudes in a deeply conservative country where many disapprove of playing music. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

Afghanistan’s first — and only — all-female orchestra is trying to change attitudes in a deeply conservative country where many see music as wicked, especially for women.

The group’s two conductors show how difficult that can be but also how satisfying success is.

One of them, Negin Khpolwak, was supported by her father when she joined the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul and then became part of its girls’ orchestra, called Zohra. But the rest of her family was deeply against it. Her uncles cut off ties with her father.

“They told him he is not their brother anymore,” said Khpolwak, now 20. “Even my grandmother disowned my father.”

Khpolwak had learned about the music institute at the orphanage in Kabul where she spent most of her life. Her father sent her to the orphanage because he was afraid for her safety in their home province of Konar in eastern Afghanistan, an area where Taliban militants are active.

Zarifa Adiba plays during one of Zohra’s concerts in Kabul. Some of Adiba’s family members do not approve of her participating in the group. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

The institute is one of the only schools in Afghanistan where girls and boys share classrooms, and it draws its students from the ranks of orphanages and street children, giving them a chance at a new life. Khpolwak studied piano and drums before becoming the orchestra’s conductor.

More than 30 girls and young women ages 12 to 20 play in Zohra, which is named after a goddess of music in Persian literature. In January, the orchestra, which performs traditional Afghan and Western classical music, had its first international tour, appearing at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and four other cities in that country and Germany.

“The formation of the orchestra is aimed at sending a positive message to the community, to send a positive message to the girls, to encourage families and girls to join the music scene of the country,” said Ahmad Naser Sarmast, who founded the institute in 2010 and started the orchestra four years later.

Sarmast has experienced firsthand the militants’ hatred of music. In 2014, a Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up at a concert Sarmast was attending. He was wounded, and a German man in the audience died.

The orchestra’s other conductor, 18-year-old Zarifa Adiba, says her family’s opinion of the group is changing.

When Adiba joined the school in 2014, she told only her mother and stepfather, not her four brothers and her uncles, because she knew they would disapprove. Her mother and stepfather tried to tell them about the importance of music — without mentioning Adiba — but they weren’t convinced.

“If my brothers and uncles had known about me learning or playing music, they 100 percent would have stopped me because they had a very negative view toward music,” Adiba said.

Her family’s opposition to music was so intense she hesitated to join the orchestra’s trip to Davos. But she ended up going, and as one of the conductors she was widely interviewed in the media there and appeared on TV.

When she returned, her uncles were the first to congratulate her. Two of her brothers are still not happy about her involvement with music, but now she has the support of the rest of the family, she has more courage, and she said she is sure her brothers will eventually come around.

“I changed my family, now it is time for other girls to change their families because I am sure that slowly all Afghanistan will change,” she said.