Kinan Abou-afach

2013 Pew Fellow

Kinan Abou-Afach, 2013 Pew Fellow. Photo by Colin Lenton.

“I have engaged in my travel, so I hope I arrive.”

Cellist, composer, and classical Arab musician Kinan Abou-afach (b. 1977) was born in Damascus, Syria, where at the age of seven he began learning traditional Arabic repertoire on the oud, an Arabic lute. “Damascus was a huge influence on me—a place where you can hear the Muslim call of prayer mixed with church bells,” says Abou-afach. “Mosques and churches playing simultaneously: that sweet sound was my first lesson in polyphony and harmony.” He studied cello at the Arabic Institute of Music and played in the Syrian Orchestra as a youth musician, often getting into trouble for improvising on his instrument. Since arriving in the United States in 2000, Abou-afach has found additional inspiration in American jazz and the inherent freedoms of the form. As a professional musician, he has performed with many well-known musicians and ensembles such as Youssou N’Dour and also appears on a recording of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project. Now residing in Philadelphia, Abou-afach performs extensively with Arabic cultural organization Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture and continues to seek opportunities for cross-pollination between Arab, European, and American styles and traditions. In 2015, Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture will premiere new work by Abou-afach as part of That Which Is Adorned, a concert, booklet, and website produced with Center support.

Kinan Abou-afach, “White Dream,” for cello ensemble.


Collaborators & Colleagues

Chris Jennings is the managing director of Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC, an exemplary producer of classical work, including daring adaptations.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Sarah Lutman has worked in the arts and nonprofit sector for the past 35 years, and she is currently an independent consultant and entrepreneur.

Jennifer Higdon wins a International Opera Award for Cold Mountain, Geoff Sobelle’s one-man play The Object Lesson will be presented at New York Theatre Workshop, and a mid-career retrospective book of Bo Bartlett’s paintings is published.

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage has awarded an Advancement grant of $500,000 to the Curtis Institute of Music to support the design and implementation of a new curriculum that provides graduates with the entrepreneurial and business skills necessary to forge effective careers within the rapidly changing classical music field.

Grants & Grantees

Neysa Grassi is a painter and a 1995 Pew Fellow.

A music and movement performance that will offer audiences a distinctive interpretation of Miguel de Cervantes’ four-century-old classic, Don Quixote.

Collaborators & Colleagues

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Grants & Grantees

Pew Fellow Sueyeun Juliette Lee’s poetry questions concepts of birthright, lineage, and homeland, investigating relationships between people and the places they inhabit.

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Grants & Grantees

Pattie McCarthy, a 2011 Pew Fellow, has established herself as a serious and ambitious young poet with a strong sense of language and tradition.

Leading hip-hop artist Raphael Xavier brought together masterful street performers, extreme BMX riders, acrobatic contortionists, and live music by saxophonist and composer Bobby Zankel for a contemporary circus-style performance in City Hall’s courtyard that paid tribute to the soul of the urban street.

One of this country’s oldest choruses, Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia seeks to advance the development of choral music as an art form.