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School of Music announces 2014 Academy Week: Arabic Music, June 16-20
Thursday, May 01, 2014

School of Music announces 2014 Academy Week: Arabic Music, June 16-20

The Sawa Trio.

Now in its third year, Academy Week at SUNY Fredonia offers specialized instruction in various fields of music study, with a unique focus each year. A combination of scholarly investigation, hands-on performance practice and public concert performances creates a unique and in-depth experience for musicians, educators and scholars. The week-long workshop is also available to college students (college credit is available and tuition discounts are offered) and for interested community members.

The 2014 Academy Week: Arabic Music is designed for all musicians, teachers and scholars who have an interest in gaining in-depth, hands-on experience with Arabic music, past and present, and how it relates to current practice and study. SUNY Fredonia will host three award-winning and leading scholars and performers in the field, George Dimitri Sawa, Suzanne Meyers Sawa and Michel Merhej Baklouk.

Renowned throughout the world for their expertise in the study and performance of Arabic music, the guest artists will engage participants in a weeklong program exploring rhythmic and melodic modes, improvisational and ornamental techniques, frame drumming techniques, performance practice and much more. Participants will bring their voices and instruments to classes for study, technique and performance. The academy will open and close with public performances by the Sawas and Baklouk, and include daily lectures, workshops and time for individual practice and study.

“The past two years of Academy Week have attracted both international and local participants,” commented Dr. Kay Stonefelt, who has organized and hosted two highly successful past Academy Weeks with world-renowned marimba virtuoso Keiko Abe. “Arabic Music Academy will attract musicians and scholars who have an interest in current and past performance practices of musical genres that were and are influenced by Arabic culture. Historical information and concert performances will attract a broader segment of the Fredonia community who has interests in Arab music and culture, as well as in Early Music.”

Morning sessions will focus on the historical and theoretical backgrounds of the modal system (rhythmic and melodic modes), as well as ear training and performance techniques for vocalists and players of Western instruments. The sessions will also include introductions to darabbukkah, frame drums, and some other instruments associated with Arabic music. Afternoon sessions will guide performance practice of short pieces based on materials from the morning sessions. Additional ensemble and solo playing sessions will build toward longer pieces in preparation for the evening and closing concerts.

Students will emerge from Academy Week with a clearer understanding of the medieval theory of the rhythmic and melodic modes of Arabic music, and will be able to apply their knowledge to a broader understanding and more informed approach to musical practices of today. Course credit is available, and significant discounts are offered for college students.

Arabic Music Academy Week is supported in part by the Fredonia College Foundation Carnahan-Jackson Humanities Fund. Complete Academy Week information and registration is online at

Questions may be sent directly to Dr. Kay Stonefelt,

Faculty Artist Biographies

George Dimitri Sawa was born in Alexandria, Egypt. He studied qanun, theory and voice at the Higher Institute of Arabic Music. After immigrating to Canada, he studied ethnomusicology at the University of Toronto, and obtained his doctorate in historical Arabic musicology. He has taught graduate and undergraduate courses on medieval, modern, and religious music of the Middle East at the University of Toronto and at York University. He is the author of “Music Performance Practice in the Early cAbbasid Era. 132-320 AH/750-932 AD” and “Rhythmic Theories and Practices in Arabic Writings to 339AH/950 CE” (Ottawa: The Institute of Mediaeval Music, 2004 and 2009). He has published over 50 articles on Arabic music in peer-reviewed journals and encyclopedias, and is frequently invited to give lectures and concerts worldwide. In 2005 he received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the Egyptian Ministry of Culture for his research in Arabic music history. George has been the musical director for several productions of the Toronto-based Arabesque Dance Company, and taught hundreds of dancers at the Arabesque Academy and Hannan's Belly Dance Studio in Toronto. His CD, “The Art of the Early Egyptian Qanun, Vol. 1,” was nominated for a JUNO Award in World Music in 2009. A subsequent volume, “The Art of the Early Egyptian Qanun, Vol. 2,” was released in 2009. His, “Egyptian Music Appreciation and Practice for Belly Dancers,” has won international acclaim and is an invaluable, one-of-a-kind, companion to belly dancers all over the world (it is also available in Chinese, French, Greek, Russian and Spanish). His Arabic to Arabic music and socio-cultural glossary of “Kitab al-Aghani (The Book of Songs)” of al-Isbahani (d. 356/967) is being presently published by E.J.Brill in Leiden, Holland.

Suzanne Meyers Sawa was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She holds a degree in piano performance from Wittenberg University in Ohio, and master’s degrees in both musicology and library science (with a specialty in Islamic studies) from the University of Toronto, where she is currently Assistant Librarian at the Faculty of Music Library. She has studied percussion in Egypt. She has given numerous papers on Arabic music at international conferences, and has published on Arabic women musicians in the early Islamic period for both, “The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music” and “The Encyclopedia of Islam” (Third Edition). She is presently at work on a book of annotated translations (from medieval Arabic sources) of stories about women musicians. Suzanne plays percussion instruments in, “The Art of the Early Egyptian Qanun, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.”

Michel Merhej Baklouk is the recipient of the prestigious Certificate of Appreciation from the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C. In Palestine, he studied music theory with Augustin Lama, and became recognized as a most distinguished Lebanese traditional percussionist. From 1947, he was a percussionist at the Near Eastern Radio Station, Arabic programming, in Jerusalem, Cyprus and Beirut. In 1953 he joined the BBC Radio in Beirut, and in 1961 joined the new Lebanese Radio Station Orchestra. For 26 years, beginning in 1962, he taught at the Lebanese National Conservatory. He was a member of the Lebanese Folklore Festival in Baalbeck from 1957 to 1975. He has performed with many famous Arab dancers and singers, including Taheyya Carioca, Samia Gamal, Nadia Gamal, Mohammad Abdel Wahab, Farid el-Atrash, Sabah and Wadi' el-Safi. As well, he has been associated with the Lebanese singer Feyrouz for over 50 years, and has toured worldwide with her. He has also worked with renowned Lebanese composers such as the Rahbani Brothers, Toufiq el-Basha and Philemon Wehbe. In 1989 he moved to New York and joined the Near Eastern Music Ensemble under the direction of Simon Shaheen.

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