Class: Group and Private Music Instruction

Sat, March 17, 2012 3:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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March 3-May 25 Semester (12 weeks)
Ongoing registration throughout the semester -email for details

Alwan for the Arts is excited to announce weekly group and private Arab Music Instruction this spring. Opportunities are available for beginners and seasoned musicians of all ages to learn fundamentals of Arab music and/or study specialized topics, such as focusing on many iterations of a single Maqam throughout a few decades, learning to sing and perform many maqams and popular songs along with classical Arabic poetry, studying vocal repertoire in an all-woman setting, and learning to play and jam on Arabic percussion instruments. Private lessons are also available on traditional as well as Western instruments and voice.

Sami Abu Shumays | Tareq Abboushi | Amir ElSaffar
Ahmad Gamal | Gaida | Zafer Tawil | Ramzi El Edlibi

Email with questions or to register.

Course offerings and descriptions:

Group Instruction: all ages and levels

    Maqam Theory and Practice: Maqam Rast in Early 20th Century Egypt, 80 min, Sami Abu Shumays
    Saturdays 3:00pm-4:20pm; 11 sessions
    No class Sat 5/5
    (max. 25 students)
    Study the melodic vocabulary of Rast, to be explored in detail, by learning to sing and/or play common phrases in a call-and response fashion. While the focus will be vocal improvisations from 1900-1930, comparisons will also be made with classical and popular songs in Maqam Rast.

    Arabic Percussion, 80 min, Zafer Tawil
    Saturdays 4:30pm-5:50pm; 12 sessions
    (max. 20 students)
    Learn to perform the basic iqa’at (rhythms) of Arabic music with other students. If you don't own a drum, they may be rented/bought through our instrument rental program (see information below) or provided at class, pending availability.

Womens' Choir, 30 min diction, 80 min rehearsal, Gaida
Sundays 11:00am-12:50pm; 10 sessions: No class Easter Sunday (4/8), 4/29; class will be held Wednesday 5/16 from 5-7pm instead of Mother's Day (5/13)
**Class will be held from 1-3pm on April 15, not 11-1pm
(max. 25 students)
Study Arabic diction and perform in a choir for female vocalists of all levels with or without previous knowledge of Arabic. All students have the option to attend 30 minute diction study at the beginning of each session, but Arabic speakers are not required to attend.
[Students are encouraged to enroll in the full 10-session semester as the group will build on material every week and perform in an end-of-semester recital.]

Iraqi Maqam: repertoire and variation, 80 min, Amir ElSaffar
Sundays 1:30-2:50pm 10 sessions: No class Easter Sunday (4/8) or Mother's Day (5/13)
**Class will be held from 11:30-12:50pm on April 15, not 1:30-2:50pm
(max. 20 students)
Learn to sing and play melodic phrases of the Iraqi Maqam, which are mostly rhythmically free and meditative, in addition to learning the rhythmic formulae and popular songs, known as pestaat, that are performed alongside the maqam. This class serves as a great introduction to the maqam system, its vocabulary, and intonation for students wishing to familiarize themselves with Arab and Middle Eastern music. It is also an opportunity for students of the Arabic language to learn poems from the incredibly rich poetic tradition of the Arab world.

Iqa'at wa Harakat: Rhythms and Dances of the Middle East and North Africa, 2 hours, Ramzi El Edlibi
Sundays 3:00pm-5:00pm; April 22-June 3rd, 6 sessions: No class 5/20
A different folk dance and rhythm is introduced in each class. This course will focus on polyrhythmic songs and their accompanying dances from various parts of the Middle East and North Africa, including 2 sessions on Debkeh and one session focusing on dances from each of the following countries: Yemen, Egypt, Iraq, and Morocco.

    Group Instruction Pricing:

    Single/Trial $20
    4 classes $75 ($18.75/class)
    8 classes $140 ($17.50/class)
    10 classes $170 ($17/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 or 8 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 Iraqi Maqam + 4 classes Arabic Percussion=$150)
  • 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 will have the opportunity to perform in a student recital at the close of the semester.
    Small group lessons (2-4 students) also possible; email for further details.

    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 – Ahmad Gamal, Amir ElSaffar, Gaida
    (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)
    8 lessons 30 minutes $320 ($40/lesson)
    8 lessons 60 minutes $500 ($62.50/lesson)
    12 lessons 30 minutes $420 ($35/lesson)
    12 lessons 60 minutes $720 ($60/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 March 3-May 25 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.

Ahmad Gamal (vocal instruction) is an Egyptian singer and actor, has been a solo vocalist of the Arabic Music Orchestra of the Opera House in Cairo, Egypt since 2001. Ahmad earned a Bachelor’s degree in Greco-Roman Archeology & Civilization from the University of Alexandria, Egypt and worked in the art center at the Library of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt. His professional career as an artist began in the early 90’s. Since then, Ahmad has taken part in multiple Egyptian TV series and performed in national and international concerts, world summits, and Festivals around the Arab world, Europe, and the United States. He has performed in several celebrations of historical events including the 50th anniversary of the July 23rd Egyptian Revolution at the Opera House in Cairo, the opening of the Library of Alexandria in front of 32 world leaders, and The International Women’s Day in Amman, Jordan.

Gaida (vocal instruction) is one of the most “effusive and charming vocalists in the New York world music scene.” Gaida performs “entrancing” innovative interpretations of Syrian folk songs, originals, and freestyle improvisations over Arabic grooves. The wide range of musical styles heard within Gaida’s music reflects the diversity of her background. One song may capture the vocal finesse and tenderness of Fairuz, or highly ornate vocal stylings reminiscent of Oum Kalthoum, contrasted by a slow, sultry blues number, followed by a Brazilian, samba-like piece. These various styles flow together organically and naturally; tied together by Gaida's depth of soul and her evocative and expressive voice, which transcends genre and drives directly into the listener's heart. Gaida and her band were featured in Jonathan Demme’s, Rachel Getting Married and Jimmy Carter Man from Planes. Gaida recorded with Robyn Hitchcock, Gillian Welch and Alejandro Escovedo. She performed at Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, BAM, Joe’s Pub, Le Poisson Rouge, and many world music festivals.

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.

Last updated: 2012-05-03 05:57:56

You've heard them perform, now study with them!
You've heard them perform, now study with them!

Alwan for the Arts

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(between Broad St. and Broadway)
New York, NY 10004
(646) 732-3261

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