Arabic Music Academy

June 16–20, 2014

with George Dimitri Sawa, Suzanne Meyers Sawa and Michel Merhej Baklouk
Leading scholars and award-winning performers of Arabic music

fabric Sawa Trio

Opening Concert
June 16, 8pm, Rosch Recital Hall
Free (suggested donation $5)
Pre-concert presentation at 7:45pm
Post-concert Reception in Mason Lobby

The concert will feature the qanun (Arabic psaltery), the darabukkah (goblet shaped drum) and tambourines. The repertoire will consist of instrumental pieces from the 17th-century Ottoman court and from 19th- and 20th- century Cairo and Aleppo; Arabic sufi, folkloric and popular music as well as improvisations on the qanun and riqq. The concert will also include an illustrated history of the qanun, historical roots of the iqa'at (Arabic rhythms) and fundamental elements of Arabic musical aesthetics going back to al-Farabi (d. 339/950).

A pre-concert presentation at 7:45pm in Rosch Recital Hall will feature photographs and research by local resident, Penny Williams-Yaqub, from her travels and work in the Middle East and North Africa, 1966-86.

Closing Concert
June 20, 8pm, Rosch Recital Hall
Free (suggested donation $5)
Pre-concert presentation at 7:45pm
note: repeat presentation from Monday night)
Post-concert Reception in Mason Lobby

Fredonia's Arabic Music Academy concludes the week with a Closing Concert featuring Academy scholars George Dimitri Sawa, Suzanne Meyers Sawa and Michel Merhej Baklouk, along with performances by Academy student participants and more. Further details will be available closer to the concert date.

A pre-concert presentation at 7:45pm in Rosch Recital Hall will feature photographs and research by local resident, Penny Williams-Yaqub, from her travels and work in the Middle East and North Africa, 1966-86. Note: this is a repeat presentation from Monday, June 16.

Arabic music instruments

The Arabic Music Academy is for all musicians, teachers and scholars who have an interest in gaining in-depth, hands-on experience with Arabic music and how it relates to current practice and study. George Dimitri Sawa, Suzanne Meyers Sawa and Michel Merhej Baklouk will engage participants in a week-long 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 performances by the Sawas, and include daily lectures, workshops and time for individual practice and study.

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. These 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 this knowledge to a broader understanding and more informed approach to musical practices of today.

Raqset Sayyed Mohammed
The Art of the Early Egyptian Qanun, Vol. 2
Listen to more samples at George Sawa's website

Registration Fees:

Early registration (by April 15) - $400
Regular registration (after April 15) - $450

Non-Fredonia full-time students - $100 discount on current registration rate
(Note: Enrollment verification required. Register online and then submit scanned proof of full-time student enrollment to within 7 days.)

Fredonia student & faculty special rate - $150

Registration fee covers all classes, concerts and events. Participants will receive a certificate for attendance personally signed by guest artists. Enrollment is limited.

Register Online

Housing and Meal Options - reserve by June 1

Housing and Meals packages (see housing and meals chart PDF)
Package 1: 4 nights dorm stay, 15 meals, ideal for those leaving after the closing concert (Check-in 6/16, Check-out 6/20) - $325 per person
Package 2: 5 nights dorm* stay, 15 meals (Check in 6/15, check out 6/20) - $355 per person
Package 3: 5 nights dorm* stay, 15 meals (Check in 6/16, check out 6/21) - $355 per person
Package 4: 6 nights dorm* stay, 16 meals (Check in 6/16, check out 6/21) - $365 per person
*Dorm housing fees are for single or double occupancy, in an air conditioned residence hall.

Meals only options
Package 5: Commuter Meals (all weekday meals) – 15 meals - $150 per person

Sign up for meals and housing at the time of registration, through the online form. Housing and meal packages must be reserved by June 1. Individual meals will be available for purchase throughout the week at the dining halls.

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 hundred 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 Masters 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 Musicand 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.

Course Credit

Optional undergraduate or graduate course credit available through the Office of Extended Learning, register for the Academy Week program (button above) and then enroll in the Arabic Academy special topics course for credit. See MUS 470 (undergraduate) or MUS 555 (graduate) and more information at

What to Bring

  • Instruments
  • Personal toiletries (such as soap and shampoo). Bed linens and towels are provided for dorm stays.

Questions about the event? Contact Dr. Kay Stonefelt at

The 2014 Arabic Music Academy is generously supported by:
Carnahan-Jackson Humanities Fund

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School of Music Office

Mason Hall
State University of New York at Fredonia
Fredonia, NY 14063
(716) 673-3151
(716) 673-3154 fax