Private Music Instruction

Feb 07, 2011-Apr 03, 2011

Teachers: Sami Abu Shumays;Amir ElSaffar;Bridget Robbins;George Ziadeh

Alwan for the Arts is pleased to announce that we will begin offering private instruction in Arab music, taught by musicians selected from the roster of acclaimed performers that we have showcased over the past years.  Please contact to inquire.  

About the Program

Duration:  One weekly 50-minute private lesson for eight weeks, beginning the week of February 7th and ending the week of March 28th, 2011.

$499 for entire course.

Classes will be held at Alwan for the Arts, on the 4th Floor of 16 Beaver Street.

Most classes will take place on weekends between 2 and 6 pm, with some weekday availability.  Schedules are to be coordinated with students and instructors on an individual basis.

Areas of Instruction

Arabic Maqam (Sami Abu-Shumays) – instruction in the musical modal system of the Egyptian and Levantine repertory, open to vocalists and instrumentalists of all levels and musical backgrounds.

Iraqi Maqam (Amir ElSaffar) – instruction in Iraqi musical modes and improvisation, open to vocalists and instrumentalists of all levels and musical backgrounds.

Oud (Zafer Tawil, George Ziadeh) – technical instruction in the Arabic lute, open to all levels.

Nay (Bridget Robbins) – technical instruction in the Arabic reed flute, open to all levels from beginner to advanced.

Percussion (Zafer Tawil) – instruction in the different rhythms and percussive techniques of Arabic music, on the riqq (Arabic tambourine) and the Durbakkeh (goblet drum), open to all levels.

Qanun (Zafer Tawil) – Instruction in the Arabic zither, open to all levels.

Santoor (Amir ElSaffar) – Instruction in the Iraqi hammered-dulcimer and Iraqi maqam repertoire, open to all levels.

Violin (Sami Abu-Shumays, Zafer Tawil) – instruction in the Arabic style of violin performance, open to violinists of intermediate and advanced levels.

Voice (George Ziadeh, Amir ElSaffar, Sami Abu-Shumays) – instruction in repertory and delivery of Egyptian, Levantine, and Iraqi singing styles, open to all levels.

Other String Instruments: Viola, Cello, Bass (Sami Abu-Shumays, Zafer Tawil) – technical instruction in the Arabic style of string instrument performance, open to intermediate and advanced levels.

Instructor Bios

Sami Abu-Shumays (violin, other string instruments, Arabic Maqam, vocal instruction)
Sami Abu-Shumays directs Zikrayat, a NYC-based Arabic music and dance group dedicated to presenting music from the "Golden Age" of Egyptian musical cinema (  He studied Arabic music with Simon Shaheen in New York, with Dr. Alfred Gamil in Cairo, with Mohammed Qasas, Abdel-Basit Bakkar and Abdel-Minaim Senkary in Aleppo, Syria, and with Youssef Kassab in New York.  Sami has taught at Lark Camp, Global Youth Village, FolkTours, the Arab Dance Seminar, the Arabic Music Retreat, the College of William and Mary, and currently leads an Arabic music student ensemble at Wesleyan University. In addition, he has developed a unique online resource for learning maqam at (future site demo @, and was a major contributor to

Amir ElSaffar (Iraqi Maqam, santoor)

Amir ElSaffar, trumpeter, composer, singer, and santoor player, is garnering an international reputation for his work, both in the traditional Iraqi Maqam and in jazz music. Raised in an Iraqi-American home in Chicago, Illinois, Amir was influenced by an array of musical styles, including Classical, Rock, Jazz, Blues, Arabic classical and folk music and the Iraqi Maqam. Amir has developed a new approach to playing the trumpet, which utilizes the microtuning and ornaments that are characteristic to Arabic music. In addition, he is one of the few in the world that has mastered the Iraqi Maqam, both on the santoor (Iraqi hammered-dulcimer) and as a vocalist.

Bridget Robbins (nay)
Bridget Robbins a sought-after specialist of the nay (Middle Eastern reed flute), performs widely in the New York area and across the country.   She has played with many leading ensembles, including the NY-based ensemble Zikrayat, the New York Arabic Orchestra directed by Bassam Saba, and as a guest artist with Simon Shaheen. Bridget appeared with Kazim al-Saher in Detroit, and has led Arabic music workshops in New York, Minneapolis, Santa Barbara and Williamsburg, Virginia.  She earned a B.A. in Flute Performance from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1994, and received an M.A. in Ethnomusicology in 1997, focusing on the music of Mohamed Abd al-Wahhab and Umm Kulthum.  From 2003-2005 she taught flute and nay at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in E. Jerusalem and the West Bank, Palestine.  For the last decade Bridget has been a faculty member of the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music's Music Partners Program.

Zafer Tawil (oud, violin, qanun, percussion)
Zafer Tawil is a virtuoso on oud, violin, and qanun, and a master of Arab percussion. He has performed in concerts across the country, including performances with numerous musicians ranging from Sting to Arab music virtuosos Cheb Mami, Simon Shaheen, Bassam Saba, 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. Zafer is composing and performing for Demme’s next film project, Zeitoun, based on Dave Eggers’ book about Abdulrahman Zeitoun’s post-Hurricane Katrina odyssey. He has worked on many collaborative concerts involving classical Indian and Persian music as well as Arab/jazz fusions and 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.

George Ziadeh (oud, voice)
George Ziadeh was born and raised in Birzeit, Palestine, and pursued music from a young age. In 1986 he moved to the United States, where he studied oud with Simon Shaheen, and classical singing and voice with Youssef Kassab, with whom he has toured extensively across the country. George has performed and lectured with such ensembles and institutions as the University of Chicago’s Middle East Music Ensemble with Issa Boulos, the University of Colorado (Boulder), Alwan for the Arts, the United Nations (invited by Kofi Annan), and annually at the Columbia University Department of Ethnomusicology. In 2008, George was a featured solo and ensemble performer in the “Brooklyn Maqam” Festival of Arab Music. From 1995 to 1997 George taught at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Ramallah, and at Birzeit University. George is considered an authority in maqam and Arab classical repertoire.

General Terms

  • Students are encouraged to provide their own instruments.  Rental of some instruments may be available through Alwan. Please enquire for more details.
  • Rescheduling:  Sessions may be rescheduled with at least two weeks’ prior notice, pending the instructor’s availability.  Although we will do our best to be flexible with shifting schedules, Alwan for the Arts does not guarantee that rescheduling requests can be accommodated.
  • Cancellation policy:  Students who wish to withdraw after any of the first three sessions, and before their fourth, can do so with a refund of 75% of remaining tuition fees.  No refunds will be issued thereafter.

We hope you will join us for these very exciting classes!  Please contact to inquire and register.


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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(646) 732 3261
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