Berklee opens its first Middle Eastern courses in Abu Dhabi

Berklee School of Music is opening its new centre in Abu Dhabi in February and launching its first music education programmes in the Arab world

Berklee alumnus Steve Vai performs at the opening of the Berklee Abu Dhabi centre building, February 2020

Berklee School of Music is opening its new centre in Abu Dhabi in February and launching its first music education programmes in the Arab world.

The centre, built in the United Arab Emirates Pavillion on Saadiyat Island, aims to provide world-class music masterclasses, workshops, labs and ensembles for students from across the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. It is a milestone in the school’s partnership with the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism.

The courses offered in Abu Dhabi will provide for students of all ages and include ensemble and private instruction in music and hands-on instruction in music production, recording, songwriting and dance.

For the present, however, the courses will not grant degrees or include college credit. However, the centre opens with a scholarship fund of US$5 million to offer local students the opportunity to study to degree level at the school’s other campuses in Boston and Valencia. It is expected that student ensembles will also offer live performances to the local community.

With Berklee’s long tradition of embracing global music cultures, including the Berklee India Exchange, the Mediterranean Music Institute and the Latin Music Studies programme, the Abu Dhabi centre adds a new facet to the school’s cultural world.

The first semester will begin in May 2021, offering sessions in songwriting, contemporary string techniques, DJ-ing, mixing, the music of the Middle East and musical entrepreneurialism. Among the celebrated teachers will be Palestinian cellist and composer Naseem Alatrash, Grammy-winning producer composer Rich Jacques and Emmy-winner Stephen Webber. Grammy-nominated Lebanese-American singer-songwriter Mayassa Karaa has been appointed as Artistic Director alongside the centre’s Director, Grammy-winning engineer, Gael Hedding.

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