Souhail Kaspar | Near East Music

Will McClintock
About Souhail as a teacher

Dear Colleagues:

I have been a student of music my entire life, beginning with recorder at the age of two, then violin, trumpet, piano, and percussion. My last two years of high school I studied at Interlochen Arts Academy, the premier boarding school for high school musicians. A little over a year ago I began playing doumbek with the University of California Santa Barbara’s Middle Eastern Ensemble. I had the pleasure of meeting and studying with Souhail Kaspar within the first few weeks of playing with the Ensemble. Since then, I have attended several workshops and the Middle Eastern Music and Dance Camp where Souhail teaches. In all of the years I have studied music, I have never seen such a combination of musicianship, stage presence and overall professionalism as with Mr. Kaspar.

As a teacher, Souhail communicates the importance of technique, musicality, stage presence, listening and professionalism. From the beginning, he pays close attention to where drummers place their hands, how they sit, where they hold and strike the drum. Even advanced drummers who have played for ten years do not escape Souhail’s watchful eye when it comes to technique. He is careful to point out the
importance of technique at all levels.

Of course, ultimately, Souhail trains drummers to play with dancers and other musicians. Consequently, students learn to listen and watch so that their playing appropriately matches the accompanying music and dance. Students are constantly reminded to pay attention to dynamics and when it is appropriate to play more complex / simple rhythms.

Importantly, Souhail teaches – particularly through performance and modeling – stage presence and professionalism. Clearly, Souhail has a deep respect for other performers and he communicates this as soon as he walks on stage. His eye contact, smile, humor, and seemingly boundless energy is contagious, drawing the audience into the music. I have seen Souhail teach for ten hours in one day, and finish with eight hours of performance. Yet, there was not a single moment in the day when he apparently lost concentration or connection with his audience and fellow performers. This kind of professionalism can only come from a deep love for his craft, which filters down to those of us lucky enough to watch him perform and study with him.

But perhaps most importantly, Souhail is kind and humorous. Lessons with him invariably include humor. For those that are new to drumming, or music in general, Souhail’s humor creates a sense of ease and familiarity that lowers one’s anxiety and sets the stage for relaxed, concentrated learning. As such, Souhail’s personality is a very important part of his teaching successes. It is rare that world-class musicians also possess such a vibrant sense of humor, a deep commitment to teaching, and a welcoming attitude that keeps audiences and students coming back for years and years.

Will McClintock, Ph.D.
Marine Science Institute
University of California