Questions of Practice: Conductor Donald Nally and Violinist Hanna Khoury on Blending Musical Traditions

The Crossing conductor Donald Nally and violinist, Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture music director, and Pew Fellow Hanna Khoury discuss their experiences of blending musical languages and traditions in a performance that brought together a classical Arab chamber ensemble and a Western choir. Unlike Western music, Arabic music “relies very much on the oral tradition,” Khoury explains. “If you have musical sheets [in Arabic music], they are mostly confined to the idea of a skeletal structure that needs all of these embellishments.”

Conductor Donald Nally and violinist Hanna Khoury on blending musical traditions. Filmed at The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage on December 7, 2015.

With Center support, Al-Bustan premiered two new compositions by Arab-American composers Kareem Roustom and Pew Fellow Kinan Abou-afach, inspired by Andalusian poetry, during a concert in December 2015 with soloist Dalal Abu Amneh and The Crossing, as part of Words Adorned: Andalusian Poetry and Music.

Hanna Khoury is a violinist trained in the classical traditions of Arab and Western music. A 2013 Pew Fellow, Khoury is music director of Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, and directs the Arab Music ensemble at the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently a PhD candidate in Ethnomusicology at the University of Pennsylvania exploring popular culture and nationalism. As a performer, Khoury continues to collaborate with a number of prominent artists including Mandy Patinkin, in addition to solo engagements and residencies throughout the country.

Donald Nally is conductor of The Crossing, a professional chamber choir focused on new music. He is director of choral organizations at Northwestern University and chorus master of The Chicago Bach Project. Nally has held tenures as chorus master for Lyric Opera of Chicago, Welsh National Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Spoleto USA, and for many seasons at the Spoleto Festival in Italy.


Scribe Video Center will explore the history and impact of the Great Migration (1916–30) on Philadelphia, when blacks fled the South for economic opportunities in the Northern states, giving rise to new African-American neighborhoods.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Meiyin Wang is the associate artistic producer of The Public Theater’s Under The Radar Festival and Symposium in New York, which presents new and cutting-edge theatrical work from the U.S. and abroad.

Pasión y Arte’s 2014 Flamenco Festival has come to an end, but the positive reviews keep pouring in. Recent media attention includes features in the Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Times, and The New Yorker.

Grants & Grantees

British artist Tacita Dean created a 26 1/2-minute work, in 35mm anamorphic film, in homage to the writer J.G. Ballard.

Grants & Grantees

WHYY is the region’s leading public media company and PBS/NPR member station serving one of the nation’s top 10 markets, with more than 2.9 million households in the 5-county greater Philadelphia region, the State of Delaware, and all of Southern New Jersey.

Questions of Practice

For Shelf Life, the Center invited artists, curators, and designers to use the books in our library for curated displays on subjects of their choosing.

Grants & Grantees

This exhibition, the first major survey of Kasten’s work, broadly situates her legacy in relationship to contemporary art, beyond a strictly photographic history.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Christoph Cox is Professor of Philosophy at Hampshire College. He is the author of Nietzsche: Naturalism and Interpretation (California, 1999), and co-editor of Realism Materialism Art (Sternberg, 2015) and Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music (Continuum, 2004).

Grants & Grantees

In 1997 the Center awarded Pew Fellowships to 12 Philadelphia-based artists, and grants to 46 dance, music, and theater organizations in the greater Philadelphia region.

Questions of Practice

Rainey is a 2013 Pew Fellow, a soprano saxophonist and composer, one half of improvisational duo nmperign, and leader of the BSC, an eight-member ensemble that uses both acoustic and electronic instruments.

Pasión y Arte’s Philadelphia Flamenco Festival will host this film screening of Carlos Saura’s Bodas de Sangre (Blood Wedding), featuring a discussion with Michelle Heffner Hayes.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Amanda Dargan is the education program director at City Lore, where she manages national outreach education programs and New York City arts, science, and history programs.