Summer Music Classes and Private Instruction - Learn to sing and play percussion!

May 31, 2012-Jun 21, 2012

Teachers: Tareq Abboushi;Sami Abu Shumays;Amir ElSaffar;Zafer Tawil

May 31-June 21 Semester (4 weeks)
Ongoing registration throughout the semester -email for details


Alwan for the Arts is excited to announce the continuation of weekly group and private Arab Music Instruction this summer. We will be offering three exciting new classes - Songs of Umm Kalthoum, Arab Grooves, and Iraqi Folk and Popular Songs. Private lessons are also available on traditional as well as Western instruments and voice.

Sami Abu Shumays | Tareq Abboushi | Amir ElSaffar | Zafer Tawil


Email with questions or to register.


Course offerings and descriptions:

Group Instruction: all ages and levels

    Iraqi Folk and Popular Songs, 80 min, Amir ElSaffar
    Thursdays 6:00-7:20pm 4 sessions
    (max. 20 students)
    This class focuses on the popular songs of Iraq, known as pestaat (sing. Pesta), which are sung after the Maqam in performance. These light-hearted, rhythmic, and often humorous, songs balance the meditative and contemplative nature of the maqam.

    Arab Grooves, 80 min, Zafer Tawil
    Thursdays 7:30pm-8:50pm; 4 sessions
    (max. 20 students)
    Learn new rhythms each week and in a fun class setting! Perfect for all levels, especially intermediate percussionists, as Zafer will demonstrate intermediate to advanced techniques for frame drum, darbuke, and riqq in addition to teaching basic rhythmic frameworks suited for any level.

Songs of Umm Kalthoum, 80 min, Sami Abu Shumays
Saturdays 4:30pm-5:50pm; 3 sessions, will not meet 6/23
(max. 25 students)
Students will learn to sing or play two Umm Kulthum classics, Aruh li meen and Ba3eed 3annak. The songs will also be used to illustrate the maqamat (Arabic melodic modes).

    Group Instruction Pricing:

    Single/Trial $20
    4 classes $75 ($18.75/class)
    8 classes $140 ($17.50/class)
    12 classes $200 ($16.67/class)

  • *One trial class may be taken per student. If a student decides to enroll in a package of classes, the trial session will count as the first lesson of the package and its price will be deducted from the overall cost.
  • Students enrolling in a single class or package of 4 may choose to attend any session throughout the semester.
  • If a student decides to enroll in a package after taking one single trial class, the trial session will count as the first class of the package and its price will be deducted from the overall cost.
  • Combination packages available and customizable to student’s preferences
    (e.g. 4 classes Umm Kalthoum + 4 classes Arab Grooves + 4 classes Iraqi Songs=$200)
  • Students may attend classes without registering by paying the "single" class price of $20 cash or check made payable to the Alwan Foundation, but please check the website to confirm that class is meeting on the day you decide to attend, and, if possible, email to let us know when you plan to attend.
  • Classes will be held so long as a minimum number of students is met by the end of the registration period.


Private Lessons: beginner, intermediate, and advanced

    One-on-one instruction of instrument technique, stylistic ornamentation, taqasim (improvisation), and repertoire. Beginner, intermediate, and advanced students may have the opportunity to perform in a student recital at the close of the summer sessions.

    Instruments offered:
    Violin – Sami Abu Shumays, Zafer Tawil
    ‘Oud – Zafer Tawil
    Buzuq – Tareq Abboushi
    Qanun – Zafer Tawil
    Santur – Amir ElSaffar
    Trumpet – Amir ElSaffar
    Percussion – Zafer Tawil
    Voice –Amir ElSaffar
    (See faculty biographies below for more information)

    Other Instruments (guitar, piano, cello, woodwinds, brass, etc.): Alwan for the Arts invites intermediate, advanced, and professional performers of instruments not listed here to study fundamentals of Arabic musical style including intonation, maqamat (modes), iqa’at (rhythms), ornamentation, taqasim (improvisation), and repertoire with one of our instructors. Please email for more information.

    Scheduling Policy: All private lessons are scheduled through the Alwan for the Arts office based on student, teacher, and space availability. If, after scheduling, a student cannot make his or her scheduled time, Alwan will attempt to reschedule at the teacher's discretion; however, Alwan cannot guarantee that this will always be possible. If a teacher cannot make a scheduled lesson time, the lesson will be rescheduled taking into account student, teacher, and space availability.

    Private Lesson Pricing:

    Trial Lesson*: $35 (30 minutes), $60 (60 minutes)
    Single Lessons: $45 (30 minutes), $70 (60 minutes)


    4 lessons 30 minutes $170 ($42.50/lesson)
    4 lessons 60 minutes $260 ($65/lesson)

    *One trial lesson may be taken per student (offered at the lowest package rate of $35/half-hour or $60/hour). If a student decides to enroll in a package of lessons, the trial lesson will count as the first lesson of the package and its price will be deducted from the overall cost.
    **Alwan members receive 10-15% discounts on lessons! Click here to learn more about membership options and view discount levels.

Instrument Rental: Interested in learning Arabic music but don’t have the right instrument? Students may rent or buy instruments for at-home practice through Alwan for the Arts, including the ‘oud, qanun, santur, and percussion (pending availability). Arrangements can also be made to rent Western instruments such as trumpet and violin. Please email for further details.

To register for classes or private lessons for the summer 2012 semester, email with:

  • Instrument you'd like to study and/or class(es) you're interested in taking
  • Number of sessions in which you'd like to enroll
  • Level and/or experience (so we can place you with an appropriate teacher)
  • Preferred instructor (optional - if not requested, we will match you with an instructor who fits what you are looking for in Arab music study)

Make sure to mention if you are a member of Alwan - many of our membership levels receive 10-15% discounts on lessons! Click here to learn more about membership options and view discount.

Ongoing registration throughout the semester -email for details
**Students may attend group classes without registering by paying the "single" class price of $20 cash or check made payable to the Alwan Foundation, but please check the website to confirm that class is meeting on the day you decide to attend.

Please feel free to email with any questions related to music instruction at Alwan.

P.S. Keep up-to-date with Alwan to hear more about guest artists and special events.

Faculty Biographies:

Tareq Abboushi (buzuq, Jazz-Arabic crossover) graduated from William Paterson University with a B.M. in Jazz Piano Performance. He began playing the buzuq in1997, starting at the National Conservatory of Music in Palestine. Since his arrival to New York City, he has performed with such notable musicians as Simon Shaheen, David Brosa, Omar Farouk Tekbilek, and Grammy-Award-Winner Dan Zanes in the USA, Canada, the Middle East, and Europe. His teaching profile includes lecture demonstrations at Columbia University, NYU, Juilliard, and Agder University- Norway (2008-2009)among others. Abboushi's discography includes Amir ElSaffar's acclaimed "Two Rivers," and appearances on three albums with Dan Zanes: “Parades and Panoramas,” “House Party” and “Night Time!” (Winner of “Best children's CD of the year” by He composed and performed music for the award-winning film "Chicken Heads" (best short film, 2010 Dubai Film Festival). His participation in other film scores includes the award-winning soundtrack for the film “Encounter Point” (best musical score, 2006 Bend Film Festival), “Man From Plains” (2007) and the Oscar-nominated “Rachel Getting Married” (2008), the last two directed by Johnathan Demme.

Sami Abu Shumays (Violin, maqam theory) directs Zikrayat, a NYC-based Arabic music and dance group dedicated to presenting classical vocal and dance forms of Arabic music side-by-side, with a special emphasis on repertory from the "Golden Age" of Egyptian musical cinema ( In demand as a teacher of Arabic Maqam across the country, Sami has taught at Lark Camp, Global Youth Village, FolkTours, the Arab Dance Seminar, the Arabic Music Retreat, the Arab Culture and Community Center of San Francisco, The College of William and Mary, and currently leads an Arabic music student ensemble at Wesleyan University. Sami was born in the United States of mixed Palestinian and American descent. Originally a composer and scholar of Western Classical music, he began studying Arabic violin with Simon Shaheen in New York, where he concurrently pursued graduate studies in composition and ethnomusicology at C.U.N.Y., after earning a B.A. in Music from Harvard. Seeking a deeper immersion in Arab musical culture, he traveled to Cairo, Egypt on a Fulbright Fellowship, where he studied violin with Dr. Alfred Gamil; he continued his studies in Aleppo, Syria, studying singing of classical Syrian repertory with Mohammed Qasas, and violin with Abdel-Basit Bakkar

Amir ElSaffar (trumpet, santur, vocal instruction, Iraqi Maqam) is an Iraqi-American trumpeter, santur player, vocalist, and composer who has distinguished himself with a mastery of disparate musical styles and a singular approach to combining aspects of Middle Eastern music with American jazz, extending the boundaries of each tradition. A skilled jazz trumpeter with a classical background, ElSaffar has created new techniques to play microtones and ornaments that are idiomatic to Arabic music but are not typically heard on the trumpet. Additionally, he is an acknowledged performer of the classical Iraqi maqam tradition, and performs actively in the US, Europe and the Middle East as a vocalist and santur player. As a composer, ElSaffar has used the microtones found in maqam music to create a unique approach to harmony and melody, establishing himself as an important voice in an age of cross-cultural music making. ElSaffar has received grants to compose music from Chamber Music America, the Jazz Institute of Chicago, the Jerome Foundation, Festival of New Trumpet Music (FONT), and the Painted Bride Arts Center in Philadelphia.


Zafer Tawil ('oud, violin, qanun, percussion) is a virtuoso on ‘oud, violin, and qanun, and a master of Arab percussion. Zafer has performed in concerts across the country, including performances with numerous musicians ranging from Sting to Arab music virtuosos Chab Mami, Simon Shaheen, Bassam Saba and George Ziadeh, to avant-garde composer/ performer Elliot Sharpe. He was a featured composer and performer in acclaimed director Jonathan Demme's Oscar-nominated film Rachel Getting Married and is composing and performing for Demme’s next film project, Zeitoun, based on Dave Eggers’ book about Abdulrahman Zeitoun’s post-Hurricane Katrina odyssey. Zafer has worked on many collaboration concerts involving classical Indian and Persian music as well as Arab/jazz fusion. He has held workshops on Arab music at many institutions and universities across the United States. A native of Jerusalem, Palestine, he resides in New York City.

Alwan for the Arts

16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor
(between Broad St. and Broadway)
New York, NY 10004
(646) 732-3261

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