The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music is extremely proud of the achievements of its graduates and former students. Some are completing their music studies around the world; others have international careers as performing artists; many are living and working in Palestine, continuing the vital work of educating the next generation of musicians, manufacturing instruments or working in arts management, while performing and energizing the music scene around the country. Take a look at what some of the conservatory's alumni are doing now and how their careers have developed (and see what they looked like as students!).
Al Raseef Band
Aref was a violin student at the ESNCM for several periods, most recently 2003-2005. He subsequently traveled to Italy, where he trained at the Antonio Stradivari School of Violin Making in Cremona. He gained a diploma in violin making there, then continued to Germany, where he graduated from the University of Applied Sciences in Zwickau with a Bachelor’s Degree in Musical Instrument Technology. He completed his studies with practical training at the Istanbul Technical University.
In May 2013, the instrument workshop was inaugurated in the Bethlehem branch of the ESNCM. Aref runs the workshop, where he manufactures violins, violas, cellos, ouds, qanouns and buzuqs. He also repairs and maintains all of those instruments as well as double basses and guitars.
The instrument workshop is open to the whole community, and Aref even repairs instruments from Gaza when transportation can be arranged. Aref also gives lecture-workshops, describing and demonstrating his work and educating others about proper care of string instruments.
Issa Murad studied oud at the ESNCM from 1999 to 2002, winning the first prize in the Marcel Khalife Music Competition (now the Palestine National Music Competition) in 2001 before continuing his musical studies with Naseer Shamma in Cairo from 2003 - 2005. He returned to Palestine in 2005, teaching oud, ensemble playing and classical Oriental voice at the ESNCM and other music schools, and in 2007 he moved to Paris, where he completed a Masters degree in Ethnomusicology from the Sorbonne University in 2010.
From 2010-2012 he was the artistic director of the “Balk’Or” project at the Sorbonne University, which brought together musicians from Balkan, Turkish and Arab traditions in artistic residencies. As well as giving private oud lessons in Paris, Issa has worked in schools teaching Oriental singing to French children, and has given oud masterclasses as part of the “Diwan” project in Brittany.
Since September 2014 he has been an Oriental Music and Musicology professor at the American University of Cairo (AUC). His current performance projects include the “Joussour” project, which fuses jazz, Oriental and Indian music and performs Issa’s own compositions; the “Hiwar” project, consisting of oud, percussion and Indian bansuri flute; Trio Safar (oud, violin, percussion), which plays classical Arabic repertoire; and performances with the Marie Keyrouz band and the Al Adwar ensemble, playing music from the Arab renaissance and Sufi tradition.
Jenna started taking violin lessons at the ESNCM in 1999 at the age of 7, and graduated in 2008. She served as concertmaster of the Palestine Youth Orchestra at the age of 15 and has been involved with multiple projects organized by the ESNCM throughout the years, including playing with the Palestine National Orchestra. She won the first prize in her age category in the string section of the Palestine National Music Competition in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009.
Jenna is currently pursuing a Performer’s Diploma in violin performance at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where she studies with Jorja Fleezanis. She received her undergraduate degree in violin performance from the same school in May, 2014. Jenna has served as concertmaster of the school’s Philharmonic, Chamber, and University Orchestras. She is currently a substitute for the Philadelphia Orchestra and The St. Louis Orchestra.
Jenna is the first violinist of the Azalea Quartet, which formed in September 2013 and is currently the “Kuttner” quartet-in-residence at Indiana University. The Azalea Quartet won the Beethoven-haus residency competition, and as a result traveled to Bonn, Germany in March, 2015, for a one-week residency that was concluded with a performance at the Beethoven-haus. The Azalea Quartet was recently awarded the grand prize at the Coleman Chamber Ensemble Competition, in April, 2015. The quartet will be attending the Aspen Music Festival in summer 2015 as one of the two quartets chosen to participate in the Center of Advanced Quartet Studies.
Jenna has attended multiple music festivals, including Music Academy of the West in the summer of 2014, where she served as principal second for the Music Academy Festival Orchestra and was a finalist for the New York Philharmonic Global Academy audition. In addition to her orchestra and chamber music interests, Jenna loves teaching the violin at the pre-college level. She is currently the Associate Instructor at the Indiana University pre-college String Academy.
Mira Abu Al-Zuluf
Mira studied piano at the ESNCM Bethlehem branch from 2005 – 2011, during which time she won 1st prize in her age category in the piano section of the biennial Palestine National Music Competition (2008 and 2010), as well as 1st prize in the Carlo Tavasani Piano Competition in 2009. She participated in the Palestine Youth Orchestra in 2008, 2009 and 2010. From 2011 – 2014 she continued her musical education in Toulouse, France, where she gained a diploma in piano performance.
Since 2014 she has been living and working in Palestine, where she teaches piano at the ESNCM branches in Bethlehem and Ramallah and on the outreach program in Hebron. In January 2015 she recorded two tracks for an album of piano pieces by Palestinian Composers, playing her own composition “Recreation of Utopia” and a piece by the Palestinian composer Habib Touma entitled “Maqam for Natalie”.
Born in Jerusalem and raised in Bethlehem, Mohamed started to study clarinet in 1997 at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music. In 2006, he obtained a scholarship to complete his studies at the Regional Conservatory of Music of Angers in France, with Professor Emilie Jacquin.In 2011, Mohamed returned to Palestine, and taught clarinet and nay at the ESNCM in Ramallah, Nablus, and Bethlehem for three years. He was also the academic supervisor of the ESNCM Ramallah branch and the head of the winds section between 2011 and 2014.
Mohamed is a founding member of the Palestine National Orchestra, Palestine’s first professional orchestra created in 2011. He has played as a soloist for the Palestinian Youth Orchestra for several years. A versatile performer in demand in Palestine, he has performed and recorded with several Palestinian and international music groups and projects, including traditional, popular and classical ensembles, played in local and international festivals. Mohamed uses classical techniques and Arabic interpretations, and thus creates an original sound and style on the clarinet. His compositions reflect an eclectic combination of rhythms and melodies.
Mohamed released his first solo album, "Floor No. 4", in 2015. Today, Mohamed is a freelance musician and resides in Paris.
Nai Barghouti is a singer, flute player, and composer. She launched her professional singing career in 2011, at the age of 14, with Munyati, a full program of classical Arabic songs of the tarab genre. She performed Munyati in sold-out concerts in Cairo, Kuwait and several Palestinian cities, including Jerusalem, Ramallah, Acre, Bethlehem, Haifa and Nazareth, as well as in Beirut accompanied by the Lebanese oud virtuoso, Charbel Rouhana.
Also at 14, Nai completed her classical music studies in flute performance at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music. During her course of study there, she discovered a passion for composition and started expressing her feelings towards the oppression of her people in music. Four of her earliest flute solo compositions have become part of the flute curriculum at the International Institute of Iberian Music in Valencia, Spain.
Nai won several woodwind and vocal performance awards in Palestine. She also joined the Palestine Youth Orchestra in 2013 as principal flute. In 2008, she performed at UNESCO (Paris headquarters) in a concert that featured June Anderson, among others. Nai also sang and played the flute at the Paris International Jazz Festival in 2010, as part of the ESNCM's Maqamat al-Quds Arabic music ensemble. Nai performed at the United Nations headquarters in New York in November 2013 on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
Nai is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Jazz performance, focusing on jazz voice, at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.
An accomplished classically trained musician and improviser of diverse styles; Naseem has earned a reputation for fearlessly broadening the horizons of the cello on the world stage. Born and raised in Palestine he began his cello studies at age 12 at The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music. After finishing his studies in Palestine, Naseem was awarded a full scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music, in Boston US. Where he went on to achieve the highest honors for a BMus in cello performance. At Berklee he studied with cellists Eugene Friesen and Owen Young, as well as Rob Thomas and Simon Shaheen.
A soloist, recording musician, chamber musician, and teacher, Naseem continues his global performance career. Naseem has performed at The Nancy Jazz Festival, Lebanon’s Beit Aldeen Festival, Jerash Festival, The Kennedy Center, Wigmore Hall, Kennedy Center, and within the Aldeburgh World Orchestra’s London Olympic tour appearing at The BBC Proms in The Royal Albert Hall and at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. Naseem has enjoyed performances alongside Ron Carter, Simon Shaheen, Leo Blanco, Javier Limon, Cafe De Silva, Jorje Drexler and for Alejandro Sanz at the Latin Grammy Awards in 2013. In 2016 he was awarded a full scholarship to attend the Berklee Global Jazz Masters program in Boston.
Twice awarded the first prize for string playing in The Palestine National Music Competition, Naseem continues to be a voice for Palestinian culture and an advocate of its music through his global string quartet The Four Corners Quartet.
Tareq Abboushi is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and bandleader. Born and raised in Ramallah, Palestine, he studied piano at the ESNCM from 1993-1995 and from 1998 - 2000, before completing his formal musical education at William Paterson University in New Jersey, where he graduated with honors in Jazz Piano Performance.
Tareq has been playing Buzuq since 1997, performing and touring with numerous bands throughout the US, Canada, the Middle East, and North Africa. Collaborations have included such notable musicians as Simon Shaheen, Lotfi Bouchnak, Sonia M’barek, Billy Drewes, Omar Farouk Tekbilek, and Dan Zanes.
As a recording artist, his discography includes two albums with his group SHUSMO, four albums with Dan Zanes, two with Amir ElSaffar, and numerous film soundtracks including: “Encounter Point”- best musical score 2006 Bend Film Festival; "Chicken Heads"- best short film 2010 Dubai Film Festival; “Man From Plains,” and the Oscar-nominated “Rachel Getting Married,” directed by Jonathan Demme. His composition “Pickles” won an award in the Palestine National Music Competition, and the United States awarded him citizenship as an artist of extraordinary ability.
As a teacher, his career involves lectures and workshops at Columbia University, NYU, Juilliard, Museum of the City of NY, the Children’s Museums of Brooklyn and Manhattan, and Bahrain's Spring of Culture Festival. For the academic year of 2008/09, Tareq taught at Agder University and Music Conservatory in Norway. He currently teaches at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music.
Yacoub is a composer and arranger as well as a qanoun performer on Palestinian and international stages. He has performed with the Palestine Youth Orchestra/Collegium Musicum Orchestra of Bonn University; Saber Rebai, Lutfi Bushnaq, Ayman Tayseer, Simon Shaheen, Dalal Abu Amneh and several Sufi ensembles in Tunisia.