MICHAEL J. KEBERLEIN
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.
MICHAEL J. KEBERLEIN, MD
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