About the Retreat

Founded in 1997, the Arabic Music Retreat features instruction in all facets of Arabic music – including technique, theory, and repertoire. It is considered the premier Arabic music program in the United States.

Led by internationally renowned musician Simon Shaheen, the Retreat brings world-class instruction of Arabic music to the campus of Mount Holyoke College in the town of South Hadley, in western Massachusetts. The event takes place each summer, when the campus is quiet and in its full summer glory.

The Retreat’s schedule is rigorous and encompasses ear-training, theory, private lessons, small group classes, chamber group, and orchestra. Despite the busy schedule, participants make time to play music together informally in jam sessions and open mic evenings.

In its first year, the Retreat attracted 20 or so participants. It now averages 80 each year.  With a faculty of 11 instructors, everyone gets plenty of individual attention, and the faculty and participants create a unique and intimate musical experience that welcomes newcomers.

Participants range from professional performers to dedicated amateurs, from retirees to musically precocious teens. They come from all continents and represent a world of diverse musical and cultural backgrounds. We welcome students, scholars, performers and conductors. We believe that our combination of teaching technique, theory, history, repertoire and performance practices molds multi-faceted talent needed in the musicians of today and tomorrow.

Aramco World Magazine published an article about the Retreat written by Piney Kesting, a freelance journalist from Boston who is an active Retreat supporter. A link to the article is here

The video below serves as an introduction to the Retreat and its beautiful setting.