Music and Arabic educators gathered at the Greenfield Intercultural Center of the University of Pennsylvania for a five-day intensive course on Arab Arts & Culture presented by Al-Bustan, made possible largely by the support of Qatar Foundation International, along with University of Pennsylvania’s Middle East Center and Greenfield Intercultural Center, and the School District of Philadelphia.
The week of instruction was led by Al-Bustan’s faculty of master teaching artists with guest lectures by scholars and community leaders. The curriculum was themed around Al-Andalus, a period of extraordinary cultural production and intercultural coexistence in Arab Spain, with discussion in relation to the contemporary Arab world and culture.
The morning began with lectures by Hanna Khoury, Brahim El Guabli and Nora Elmarzouky, a discussion with CAIR Executive Director, Jacob Bender about his film Out of Cordoba, and an Andalusian dance demonstration by Habiba. In these morning sessions, lecturers offered participants foundational information about Arab culture and history to be used as teaching tools for their classrooms.
Instruction was given by master teaching artists Hanna Khoury, Hafez Kotain, and Kinan Abou-afach. Khoury taught the group Arab music theory, pedagogy for teaching Arabic songs, and instrumental ensemble instruction. Kotain taught the fundamentals of Arab percussion and two percussion pieces for the group to perform. Abou-afach instructed Arabic educators on traditional and popular methods of translating Arabic poetry into music.
The week’s efforts culminated in a recital by the course’s participants and instructors at The Rotunda, featuring an instrumental opening by Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble, followed by a performance of Olive Harvest and several songs (Lamma Badda, Jadaka-l Ghaythu, Fil Bustan, and Al-Arqam), and ending with a rousing percussion arrangement.
Participants found the instruction useful for their respective classrooms, choirs, and ensembles. Here is some of the feedback we received:
“The most important thing I learned is that Arabic culture is not limited to ‘this or that’, it really is a combination of ‘this AND that.’ How you define what is an Arab is subject to a plethora of things like language and location. I also learned that Arabs identify in a host of different ways. It was so interesting to learn how varied and yet connected Arabs are.” – Channing
“It was helpful to have a chance to teach the songs to the other participants, as we would in our classroom. I walked away with new approaches to teaching both choral and instrumental music.” – Marissa
“I didn’t know anything about Arabic music, culture, or language before taking this workshop. I am so glad that I took it because I was able to gain so much in such a short period of time. I hope to take it again in order to build on what I’ve already learned!” – Agnes
“I thought the theme was excellent (Andalusia). It gave a focus to what was presented. I never knew or realized that it was such a important part of Arabic culture.” – Joe
“This was a great experience and opportunity to me . I learned a lot in one week and I met a great people and listened to different views. Thank you so much.” – Hend
You can read about the daily activities by clicking on the following hyperlinks to blog posts on the week:
- Reflections on the Power of Intercultural Exchange
- Out of Andalusia and Into Our Classrooms
- Composing Arab Music at Al-Bustan’s Professional Development Course
- Al-Andalus Sparks Healthy Conversation on Ethnic Identity
- The Power of Song in Arabic Language Education