The Conductor: Shireen Abu-Khader

Jordanian-born Shireen Abu-Khader comes from a musical family, including one of the first professional teachers of voice and chorale music in Jordan and co-founder of Amman’s first community choir, as well as patrons of opera and classical music. After obtaining her Bachelor of Arts in music education from Oberlin College Conservatory in 1994 and her Master’s degree in choral music from the University of Southern California in 1998, Ms. Abu-Khader moved to the West Bank/Palestine where she taught music at the Technical College for Women in Ramallah and was the choral coordinator for the Bethlehem 2000 celebrations.

Ms. Abu-Khader's main interest is in rearranging traditional Arabic music and composing new works for choirs. She founded Dozan wa Awtar in January 2002 as a music establishment to promote Arab composers and the performing arts. In March 2002, her “Arabian Folk Suite” choral arrangement premiered in The Hague at the EMAC (Schools) Honor Choir Festival. In April 2002, she conducted a peace and charity concert, “Voices Sing for Palestine,” which engaged 100 singers from different backgrounds and faiths, and aired on international satellite channels such as CNN and ART.

From 2001 until 2008, Ms. Abu-Khader directed the YWCA Community Choir in its annual Christmas event, broadcast every Christmas Eve on Jordan Television (JTV). During this time, she also taught choral music and performing arts at private schools in Amman. In August 2008, Ms. Abu-Khader collaborated with the International Federation of Choral music to create Aswatuna Arab Choral Festival. Choirs from Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan met and shared music, along with a Swedish choir, Voces Nordicae. The event culminated in a joint project with all 150 singers performing in Petra. Later in 2008, the CD of her original arrangements of Levantine folk songs performed by a select group of Jordan-based musicians and singers, “Dozan,” was released internationally under the name, “Introducing Dozan,” to strongly favorable reviews.

Besides her choral work, Ms. Abu-Khader has also been involved in orchestral conducting, holding workshops for teachers at schools, colleges and refugee camps in the West Bank. In November 2008, she was invited by Placido Domingo to observe and practice conducting singers, opera and orchestra and to learn about the functions of the opera house at the Washington National Opera, in Washington, DC. She has also collaborated with Professor Andre de Quadros on international choral projects and workshops and has begun publishing the choral works and arrangements that emerge from these creative events.

To the delight of her singers and friends, she has been known to turn around from the conductor’s podium and sing a solo part with Dozan wa Awtar during concerts.