In the wake of one of the most divisive election seasons of all time, The Toledo Symphony Orchestra and The National Arab Orchestra will celebrate the region’s cultural diversity and unity. Mideast x Midwest: A Dialogue of Music, Food and Fun at America’s Crossroads will bring The Valentine Theater to life as music of the East and West joins together in harmony on Saturday, November 12.
Audiences will learn about the differences and commonalities between traditional Middle Eastern and Arabic music and Western classical music. Join Michael Ibrahim, founder and director of the National Arab Orchestra, Toledo Symphony Resident Conductor Sara Jobin, and world renowned opera singer and Syrian Refugee Lubana Al-Quntar for an unforgettable night of musical and cultural celebration and exploration.
Ibrahim grew up in the Detroit Metro Area as the son of first-generation Syrian-Americans who came here in the early ‘70s. Music has always been a significant part of his life.“I started studying Arab music with the oud, and then I got into Western music in high school,” says Ibrahim.
Now, Ibrahim directs the National Arab Orchestra out of the Detroit Metro Area. He’s bringing the orchestra to Toledo based on a request.
“There were a group of people who came to one of my concerts in Detroit,” he explains. “They loved what they saw and wanted to bring the orchestra to Toledo.”
Like Detroit, Ibrahim feels that Toledo is a perfect place for this type of cooperative cross-cultural collaboration.
“Toledo has always welcomed its immigrants and the Arab American community has a long history in Toledo,” says Ibrahim.
During Mideast x Midwest, concert-goers will hear traditional Arabic music and arrangements by contemporary composers, as well as Western classical pieces on related themes.
“We’ve done some cross-cultural work for the concert where we’ve taught non-Arab students how to sing in Arabic,” Ibrahim explains, adding that he feels that this is a very constructive form of cultural dialogue. “Students have learned about the culture and gotten a better understanding of the community and the people through music.”
This kind of comparative/collaborative exploration of music demonstrates our similarities and diversity in an impactful, poignant way.
“We’re showcasing everything contrary to typical stereotypes of Arabs,” Ibrahim explains. “Everyone thinks that Syrian refugees come here and are a drain on the economy— but we have [Lubana Al-Quntar], a Syrian refugee (performing at) the concert who came here at the beginning of the war and she is finding her way through her craft and skills which she used to make her living in the Middle East. This is going to be a night filled with great music.”