Aswat Youth: Arabic Music Classes

Aswat Youth introduces Arab and non-Arab children to Arab music and culture, helps bridge the gap between Arab cultural heritage and life in America, provides Arab musical training, and improves students’ aural skills.


Arabic Singing I

Arabic Singing II

Instructor: Dr. Guilnard Moufarrej

‘Oud I

‘Oud II

Instructor:  Dr. James Samir Ismail

Percussion I

Percussion II

Instructor:  Faisal Zedan


Cubberley Community Center

4000 Middlefield Road

Palo Alto, CA


Sundays, 1:15 PM – 3:15 PM

Starting January 22nd

Ending May 20th


  • Enrollment takes place on the first day of class, January 22, 2012, from 12:00 pm—1:00 pm
  • To enroll, please submit the following:

1. Filled-out registration form; 2. Payment (cash or check): $340 per student for the Winter/Spring 2012 session (17 classes / January 22—May 20, 2012)

  • Registration forms are available online at, and will be made available on the first day of class.
  • Make all checks payable to ZAWAYA (not Aswat)
  • Submit registration form and payment to support staff
  • No student will be allowed to sit in class if registration form is not filled out and tuition fee is unpaid.

Aswat Youth Mission

Aswat Youth introduces Arab and non-Arab children to Arab music and culture, helps bridge the gap between Arab cultural heritage and life in America, provides Arab musical training, and improves students’ aural skills.

Aswat Youth Vision

The Aswat Youth envisions a culturally-diverse, inclusive American society where peoples of different backgrounds are able to fulfill their cultural and artistic aspirations, and share them with one another.

Registration Guidelines

  • Each student is entitled to two courses.
  • If one chosen class conflicts with the schedule of the other chosen class, the student must choose another class to avoid the conflict in schedule.

Required Materials

  • Zawaya provides a limited number of instruments exclusively for Aswat Youth classes.  They are not available for borrowing outside the class or taking home.  However, they may be available for purchase subject to availability and limited by class needs.
  • Students are encouraged to own (or at least have constant access to) the instrument being studied.  This is because learning to play an instrument seriously requires practice at home.
  • The Chorus Book for Singing class and the ‘Oud textbook are available for purchase from Zawaya at approximately $15 each.

The Aswat Youth Team

Nabila Mango

Founder & Administrative Director

Dr.  Guilnard Moufarrej

Musical Director & Voice Instructor

Dr. James Samir Ismail

Principal & ‘Oud Instructor

Faisal Zedan

Percussion Instructor

Mia Coo

Support Staff



Dr. Guilnard Moufarrej

Arabic Singing Instructor &

Musical Director

What do you teach?

I provide vocal and ear training; I teach folkloric and traditional songs from the Arab world and other Middle Eastern countries.  I also direct the music ensemble.  Throughout the session I collaborate with the other instructors to teach the students the songs and instrumental pieces that they can perform together and with the singers.

How do you teach it?

I choose the song repertoire based on the age and/or level of the students. For beginners I choose songs that do not require a wide vocal range. For intermediate and advanced students, I choose more complex music melodically and rhythmically. I also introduce the students in the intermediate and advanced levels to the Arab modes or maqams. My teaching is mostly based on ear training. Since I am dealing with a foreign language (mostly Arabic), part of the class is dedicated to help the students with the correct pronunciation, especially of the different alphabet letters that do not exist in English. The ability to read musical notes is a plus and is required at the intermediate level and above. In regard to the music ensemble, once students learn the assigned pieces on their instrument, they join other musicians and practice together. Special attention will be applied to musicality, interpretation, and perfection of the songs and musical pieces.

What are the minimum requirements students should meet to progress at the intended pace in your class?

In order to move forward and progress, students in the singing class should practice on a regular basis reading the lyrics. They should also listen to the music recordings provided on Youtube or emailed to the parents in order to become familiar with the tunes. The musicians are required to practice daily on their instrument (of course they need to own one) in order to develop good playing technique and learn the pieces. Listening is also beneficial to the musicians.


Dr. James Samir Ismail

‘Oud Instructor & Principal

What do you teach?

Oud technique in the context of Arabic music, along with basic sheet music reading skills.

How do you teach it?

The approach is to teach almost everything in the context of Arab music.  Context is key because Arab music is much different from the aural soundscape of America.  As often as possible, simple Arab melodies are used to practice technique.  The melodies chosen are generally sourced from well known, instrumental Arab art music genres.  The theory behind this method is that while the student is focusing on technique, they are also receiving an exposure to pieces that link their learning experience in the present, to compositions that have been at the foundation of the Arab music soundscape for generations past.  This teaching theory is derived from my own experience, being born and raised in America, and starting to learn about Arab music during college. Reflecting back on the experience, I wish I had the opportunity to learn the music at a much earlier age, as it was very helpful in bridging the gap between the culture my parents were raised in, and the culture I was raised in.  I also believe that music is perhaps the best way for an individual to understand and connect with another culture, and especially when it is the culture of their heritage.  Among the ancillary benefits are exposure to Arabic language, and a somewhat unique and often overlooked perspective on the culture.

What are the minimum requirements students should meet to progress at the intended pace in your class?

For ‘oud, every student must have a decent instrument to practice on at home. Practice must happen everyday, if even for only tens of minutes.  Thirty minutes per day is recommended.  It is up to the parents to ensure that the child has the time, and is encouraged, to practice every single day.


Faisal Zedan

Percussion Instructor

What do you teach?

I teach Arab percussion; Derbakki/Tabla, Riqq and frame drums. I also teach Arab music and drumming styles and their connection to Arab culture.

How do you teach it?

First, I survey the class.  I look at student ability and enthusiasm.  From there, I am able to determine how I might engage them to get them to appreciate the beauty and complexity of Arab percussion starting from a simple point.  Arab percussion has its own terminology and a different approach to drumming than the Western system. This is very important to understand. I teach a lot of non-Arab students and they appreciate the Arab method of learning.  I will only use a few terms from the Western system because they are universal.  Otherwise, it is really great to get the students of Arab drumming used to the Arab method and terminology.

What are the minimum requirements students should meet to progress at the intended pace in your class?

A student needs genuine interest and enthusiasm.


Aswat Youth is brought to you by Zawaya.  Zawaya is a non-profit organization that seeks to contribute to the multicultural discourse of the Bay Area with the Arab Arts.  Zawaya means “aspects” or “corners”, suggesting the many art forms to be discovered and enjoyed in Arab culture.  It was founded in 2003 by Nabila Mango and Haya Shawwa Ben Halim, two Arab-American women who recognized that the challenges faced by the Arab-American community in the Bay Area requires a creative response.  With Zawaya, they sought to give the Arab community a voice, including a musical one.  Aiming to address stereotypes and misconceptions, Zawaya offers a genuine image of Arab Americans and their rich civilization, which can only be a source of strength for American society.  For more information, please visit or email

Zawaya Executive Committee

Nabila Mango

Executive Director

Duraid Musleh


Haya Shawwa Ben Halim


Jose Antonio Nasser


Board Members

Lina del Roble

Margaret Coyne

Shahdan Shazly

Suzanne El-Gamal

Tarek Hashem!/zawayasf