Souhail Kaspar | Near East Music

Souhail Kaspar Ė as performing artist and teacher

"Music is not a trivial pastime. At its best, music serves to foster community and bonding between individuals: all the emotions of joy and longing that music can evoke in people seem to form a connection of shared experience, one that is deeply felt and potentially stronger than more rational alliances. The best musicians have a visceral sense of this power, however differently they may express it. Music connects people and that is no small thing.

Once we regard music as having this important function, we then can appreciate musical traditions as evolving over time, with enduring principles of mastery and execution being selected according to how well the resulting art serves its human purpose. Classical traditions and techniques of music-making are not at all arbitrary, but rather have been perfected by a combination not only of discipline and creativity, but also didactics (to preserve what works best). As in most art forms, innovation and new-but-enduring contributions come only after learning these traditions and techniques from established masters.

These two related ideas about the purpose of music and the value of traditions give rise to my deep admiration for Souhail Kaspar as a performer and teacher. He brings people together in a celebration of our common humanity, and works tirelessly to pass on a tradition of tremendous value.

As a performer, Souhail demonstrates an ability to engage his audience in a manner that provides a model for all entertainers to follow. He is able to make his ensemble performances accessible to the uninitiated within the audience, while at the same time still reaching the sammiía (sophisticated listeners) who are well-versed in Arabic music tradition and who appreciate the idiomatic authenticity. His overall musicianship, impeccable taste and professionalism earn him the respect of other talented musicians, enabling him to assemble the best available artists and to create unforgettable live performances that border on magic.

As a teacher, Souhail excels not just because of his engaging personality but also to a great extent from his experience and credentials. From his early years of formal training (at Nadi al-Fonun al-Arabia in Aleppo) he understands and effectively communicates the importance of correct fundamental techniques in percussion performance, demonstrating a style that is uniquely clear and articulate, with a highly perfected purity of sound. His experience performing with some of the best musicians of recent history lends credibility to his insights about what matters on the stage and in the studio. His many years of teaching are manifest in his ability to assess each studentís level of ambition and current skill level, which then enables him to tailor his demands and challenges to the individual student.

Souhailís kindness and generosity leads many of us to see him as a highly effective ambassador of goodwill. In forty-six years of studying music I have never encountered a better teacher. His didactic skills are exceptional and his performances are inspiring; his talents are reflected in the dedication of his students to the music. I will always be grateful for what he has helped me to discover. To me, Souhail Kaspar is much more than an admired teacher and performer. As a physician, I understand the healing power of his music. As an enthusiastic amateur musician, I appreciate the value of such a generous instructor. I truly believe that Souhail Kaspar should be recognized as a national treasure.

Flagstaff, Arizona