Faculty: The Retreat’s faculty are master level instructors and performers. Their perspectives bridge worldwide performance, academic scholarship, ground-breaking composition, and dedicated teaching. At the Retreat they teach private and group lessons, and coach chamber groups. Two faculty members also conduct the Retreat Orchestra. Each Retreat typically features a world premier composition by a faculty member.
Simon Shaheen -Artistic and Executive Director – `Ud and Bowed String Performance, Music Theory, Chamber Music
An acclaimed Arabic music performer, composer and educator, Shaheen tours worldwide as a soloist and with his ensembles, Qantara, and the Near Eastern Music Ensemble. His recordings (The Music of Mohamed Abd al-Wahhab, Turath, Taqasim, Saltanah, The Two Tenors and Qantara, and Blue Flame) have won him an international reputation as a leading Arab musician of his generation. A master instructor in performance and theory, Shaheen is a professor at Berklee College of Music. He conducts residencies and workshops at universities around the world. www.simonshaheen.com
Dr. A. J. Racy – Associate Director – Nay and Buzuq Performance, Chamber Music
Professor Racy of the U.C.L.A. Ethnomusicology Department is an inspiring teacher, author, renowned composer and performer. A pioneer in conducting Arabic music ensembles in the U.S., he has inspired generations of Western and Arab musicians to study and perform the rich musical traditions of the Middle East. Professor Racy performs and lectures internationally on Middle Eastern music. His recordings include Taqasim, Jazayer Plus Ali Jihad Racy, Ancient Egypt, and Mystical Legacies. His numerous scholarly publications include the award-winning book, Making Music in the Arab World: The Culture and Artistry of Tarab (Cambridge U. Press, 2003).
Bassam Saba – Nay and `Ud Performance, Chamber Music
Originally from Lebanon, Bassam joined the Near Eastern Music Ensemble in 1992 as a principal nay player, and also plays with Qantara. He has a Masters degree in music performance from the Moscow Conservatory. Bassam has performed with Fairuz, Ziad Rahbani, Marcel Khalife and the Absolute Ensemble. He has many recording credits including Wonderful Land. Bassam is the Director of the National Lebanese Conservatory of Music, and the New York Arabic Orchestra. A multi-instrumentalist, he teaches `ud, buzuq, violin, and nay. www.newyorkarabicorchestra.org.
Dr. Sonia M’barek – Vocal Performance and Chamber Music
Sonia is the leading vocalist of Arabic classical and ma’luf vocal repertoire. A graduate of the National Conservatory of Tunis, she performs worldwide. Her recordings include Libert, Tarab, Tawchih, Takht, Tir Al Miniar, and Romances. M’barek is a professor and researcher at the Higher Institute of Musicology and gives master classes around the world. She also has a PhD in Political science, and a Master’s in Public Law, and recently served as Tunisia’s Minister of Culture. While Minister, she initiated a law on the status of the artist and developed a participtory culture for the renewal of cultural policy. Her award-winning recording, Tarab, won the prestigiou Diapson D’or (Golden Tuning Fork) Award of France in 2001. She recently wrote, “The Status of the Musician in Tunisia: State of Play of Music Policy”, published by L’Harmattan (2018).
Dr. Wassim Odeh – `Ud Performance and Chamber Music
Wassim is a renowned Palestinian `ud player and composer. He has been an `ud instructor and ensemble director at the Academy of Music and Dance in Jerusalem, the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Ramallah, and Bait al-Musiqa in Shafaamr. He has performed in many important festivals worldwide. His recently-completed PhD thesis at Bar-Ilan University was on the instrumental music of Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab. www.wassimodeh.com
Najib Shaheen – `Ud Perfomance
Najib began performing `ud with his father Hikmat Shaheen orchestra in Haifa at the age of 12. After moving to the US in 1967, he played `ud with legendary vocalist Hanan in New York, and toured with her in Latin America. Najib has performed hundreds of concerts with Simon Shaheen as a core member of the Near East Music Ensemble and Qantara. He has taught`ud and Arabic Music privately throughout his performing career. In 1985, Najib founded his studio for making & restoring vintage `uds, experimenting in bringing back the authentic classical Arabic sound. Since the founding of the Retreat, Najib has been an `ud instructor and lecturer on `ud maintenance. A talented chef, he is in charge of food at the Retreat and is a key member of the operations team. www.oudman.com.
William Shaheen –`Ud and Violin Performance, Music Theory , Chamber Music
After learning the `ud from his father Hikmat Shaheen, William studied classical violin at the Rubin Conservatory in Haifa. He gives workshops and performs at Universities in the U.S., and performs with the Near East Music Ensemble. He teaches `ud and violin privately in California.
Layth Sidiq – Violin Performance, Music Theory, and Chamber Music
Born in Baghdad and raised in Jordan, Layth studied at the National Conservatory in Amman, and with Simon Shaheen. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Layth leads the Middle Eastern Music Ensemble at Tufts University, teaches privately, and leads the Four Corners Quartet. @laythsidiq
Jamal Sinno – Qanun Performance
Lebanese-born Jamal Sinno studied qanun at the Lebanese National Conservatory under virtuoso Mohammad Sabsabi. Since moving to the U.S. in 1981, Jamal has performed with leading song stars of the Middle East including George Wassouf and Kazem Al-Sahar. He performs with Simon Shaheen’s Near Eastern Music Ensemble.
Dr. Iman Roushdy Hammady – Arabic Diction for Vocalists
Iman has an extensive knowledge of Arabic Literature and film, and gave lectures and wrote academic articles on the subject. She earned her PhD in Medical Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University. She taught Arabic language, diction, literature and film, and established Arabic Film Festivals and Series at Harvard University, MA, Drexel University and UPenn, PA, Emory University, GA, and the Arabic Music Retreat. In addition, she was the consultant and director of the Arabic Language Program of the School District of Philadelphia. Supported by Federal funding, she established a comprehensive linguistic and cultural program for the district, which included Arabic drama, music and film. Iman is versed in Classical and Modern Standard Arabic, in addition to a number of Arabic dialects and other foreign languages, and performs multi-lingual (simultaneous) translations, film subtitles, and script adaptations. Iman is a native speaker of Arabic, and was born in Cairo/Egypt.
Michel Merhej – Percussion Performance
Michel was the principal percussionist with Fairuz and the National Lebanese Radio Orchestra for over 20 years, and has been performing in prestigious Arabic Music ensembles in the Middle East and the U.S. for three decades. He currently plays with the Near Eastern Music Ensemble and teaches percussion in New York.
Tareq Rantisi – Percussion Performance
A native of Jerusalem, Tareq is a graduate of Berklee College of Music, with expertise in Middle Eastern, jazz and other world styles. He has performed with Simon Shaheen, Paul Winter, Glen Velez, and Bassam Saba. www.tareqrantisi.com
Kay Hardy Campbell – Administrative Director and Co-Founder
Kay has served as the Retreat’s Administrative Director since co-founding the Retreat in 1997. An author, free-lance writer and long-time student of Arabic language and music, Kay has an MBA as well as BA and MA in Arabic and Middle Eastern studies. A former resident of Saudi Arabia, she now lives in Maine where she writes about the Middle East for AramcoWorld Magazine, and researches and writes about the music and folk dance of the Arabian Peninsula. She authored A Caravan of Brides: A Novel of Saudi Arabia. She plays `ud and violin. www.kayhardycampbell.com
Patricia Auch – Retreat Staff
A former elementary school teacher, Patricia’s career in Arabic dance spans thirty years. She has traveled nationally and internationally to study with master teachers and she was a founding member of Cassandra Shore’s acclaimed Jawaahir Dance Company. She currently dances and teaches in Seattle, where she also presents educational programs to students and community groups about Arabic music, dance, and culture. She is a rostered teaching artist with the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture as well as the Washington State Arts Commission. www.pcauch.com