ABOUT the Middle East Music Society
History The following is brief history of this group and how we came along.
On February 2003, the Arab Classical Music Society (ACMS) was established as an on-line e-mail group for the purpose of promoting Arab music events, networking, and for coordinating related activities in the Chicago area and elsewhere. One year later, our list grew to over 400 members most of whom are musicians, music lovers, and/or enthusiasts. Since then, many voices have suggested and encouraged us to provide more services to the community, including performances, workshops, related materials, and initiate a referral service. These ideas have induced some of us to believe that the best way to respond to these variable demands is to transform the group into a structured non-for-profit organization. This structure, we believe, will ensure a long-term service in support of Arab music, musicians, and our communities, and will allow us to pursue our goals with more resources in hand. Since then, some of these ideas have been partially implemented, including the establishment of an On-line Arab Music Archive (pending), production of the Recorded Anthology of Arab Classical Music (pending), Musicians’ Referral System (information gathering), the Arab Music and Dance Festival of Chicago (information gathering), and the Annual Arab Music Retreat of Chicago (pending). The later program brings professional musicians and experts from many places throughout the U.S., Canada and abroad for the purpose of teaching Arab music to students, and expands the realm of its venues.
Currently, the ACMS, as an informal group, has already been involved in some formal activities with other institutions, including being part of a consortium lead by the Chicago Cultural Center and includes the Arab American Action Network, Center of Middle Eastern Studies at U of C, and the Arab Arts Council. The main purpose for this consortium is to invite musical group from various Islamic countries to perform in Chicago. The role of ACMS will be to coordinate workshops, talks, and collaborations with these guest groups. These performances will take place between the fall of 2004 and late summer of 2005.
Although all these activities and ideas are sound and promising, I reinforce that they require formal structure and both technical and service oriented expertise. I therefore suggest that it’s time for all of us to get involved more seriously in the process, consolidate our strengths and efforts, share ideas, embrace our diverse backgrounds, and start working together as one functioning unit, in a non-for-profit setting.
To accomplish this, I suggest forming at our first meeting an Administrative Committee (AdCom) of six-eight individuals, including Chair. Their task will be to determine the main structure of the organization and pursue processing of all paper work related to application for non-for-profit status. At the same time, we all need to elect a number of officers (at least three) who will lead the organization during the next term, which may last up to three years. These officers will become the corporation members for the non-for-profit organization. Election of these officers, however, doesn’t have to take place at our first meeting. We can leave it for future meetings.
Before I introduce a suggested agenda for this meeting, I just want to say that I have a great deal of respect to all of you; the trust that I have in you is well deserved and immensely valuable. And I also would like to express my gratitude to all those who have showed support to ACMS to what it stands for. In addition, I would like to take this opportunity and advocate for focusing on our common objectives and goals and put behind us any misunderstandings and/or disagreements that have risen between any of us in the near or distant past. I am confident that we all have what it takes to overcome all obstacles. On that note, I would like to remind everyone that establishing mature communication, respect, tolerance, and dynamic environment, requires a great deal of patience and acceptance to who we are and what we believe in. I’ve accordingly listed few suggested norms through which I believe we’re ought to establish our goals. The document is attached, please review it and let me know if any points need clarification, modification or you would like other points to be added.
On the agenda are many issues to be discussed, coordinated and/or assigned. A provisional list of the agenda is the following:
I suggest that for the time being we can determine a particular amount as membership fee to cover some of these expenses.
Projects / Agenda
As for our pending projects that need further structuring and support, I am hoping for this meeting to at least accomplish a few. The following are brief descriptions of what we have been doing and the kind of things that are needed towards completion:
A- The Recorded Anthology of Arab Classical Music.
In separate occasions and with many different people, I have discussed this idea - producing a recorded anthology- and attempted to explore and observe people’s reactions to it, in principal, it seems to appeal to everyone! At a meeting at Naeif’s, almost a couple of months ago, (Present: Kinan Abou Afach, Walid al-Hajali, Issa Boulos, Omar al-Musfi. Abscent: Wanees Zarour, Majed Abu Ajamia), a provisional plan was put in place to start rehearsals on selections of instrumental works written by Syrian composer ‘Ali al-Dariwsh. This will constitute the first volume of the Anthology, and there will be many more to follow. Although, the repertoire hasn’t been totally determined nor the mechanism by which we abide, our first rehearsal took place successfully at Walid’s, just two weeks ago. The rehearsal, however, lacked interpretive preparation and clear vision of what we need to convey.
This long-term project needs extra care and a great deal of hard work. It articulates our credibility and reinforces our mission and goals. I suggest that we form a committee for each project. Regardless of its makeup, this committee will:
1- Select the repertoire for each project.
2- Select musicians who would be best for that particular project.
3- Assign one individual or more to direct the music and carry out interpretations in line with the guidelines determined by the committee and other attainable personnel, expertise and/or resources.
B- The On-line Arab Music Archive
This project will give free access to registered users to Arab sheet music, manuscripts, monographs, audio files, and other materials. Provided materials will be in public domain and consistent with copyright laws. Maged Mikhail and Usama Zayed have both agreed on taking up this mission and deliver by the summer of 2004. Although they both have
different approaches to how to organize and access the database, and in fact probably never met, I believe that they are both fully dedicated to making it happen. Therefore, I would like to encourage both, Maged and Usama to work together on this, and try to make the best of their expertise. They’re both invaluable to the group, and their presence is needed and indeed a strength. On that note, I suggest the following:
1- Ask both, Usama and Maged to get together between now and our meeting on February the 18th, to discuss the Archive and present their vision to the whole group, hopefully a unified one.
2- Form a committee that will oversee the project and plan for its future, maintenance, funding, quality control, access, and recruitment of volunteers or staff for processing.
3- Determine which technology to use, hosting, space to be purchased, costs, domain name, etc.
4- Assign and coordinate who would pursue collection of material.
5- Assign and coordinate who would apply processing of material (scanning, conversions).
6- Discuss how we are going to pay for service.
C- Arab Music Retreat of Chicago
This annual activity is central to our growth and audience base. As an instructional “facility,” which could be at times portable, the concept has a great potential to grow and appeals to donors. I therefore suggest forming a committee to cover logistics and do the following:
1- Processing applications of participants.
2- Determine the place where this Retreat will take place.
3- Apply for funding. (Once we’re approved)
4- Select instructors and coordinate their schedules throughout.
5- Arrange for participants’ stay, needs and activities.
6- Promote the retreat.
Following our workshop in October 2003, at U of C, which was successful and we had over 50 participants; some progress has been made at this frontier, and we currently have two options in regards to where can we assemble: the University of Chicago or Lake Forest College, thanks to the Department of Music at U of C and Kirk-Evan Billet at Lake Forest College, respectively.
D- The Arab Music and Dance Festival of Chicago
This idea emerged during conversation with individuals from the community and others who are associated with cultural institutions. Some of these institutions expressed willingness to partner with us, including the Chicago Cultural Center. The idea is to initiate a festival that coincides with, and reinforces the events that take place during the
Arab Heritage Month. The Arab Arts Council has been organizing events throughout the period and they have been doing a great job. I propose to partner with Widad al-Bassam, at the Arab Arts Council, in order for this month to be highlighted even further, attract wider audience and promote our music.
So far, no progress has been made at this frontier.
E- Musicians Referral System
The idea behind this program is to help musicians support themselves by networking, learn about available opportunities and contracts, and provide venues with press-kits about our artists so they can be promoted and hired.
Finally, although some of the above-mentioned objectives are either so optimistic and/or ambitious, they can indeed be accomplished if well planned and concluded. We can always prioritize, distribute attainable tasks, and determine time frames that are reasonable. As long as our structure is clear and our recruitment of new members is continuous and consistent, these objective may be achieved fairly soon.
All attendees at this founding meeting have the right to nominate themselves, someone else, and vote.