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Journey into Middle

Eastern Music

Students are guided through the music and culture of the Middle East while learning the importance of understanding and appreciating diverse cultures.

Pennsylvania Curriculum Standards

(A=Assembly; W=Workshop; R=Residency)

9.1 Production, Performance and Exhibition of Dance, Music, Theatre and Visual Arts A, W, R

9.2 Historical and Cultural Contexts A, W, R

15.3 Communication: Identify diversity within groups and its effect on communications A, W, R

15.4 Learning Through Experience A, W, R

25.3 Pro-Social Relationships with Adults W, R

25.4 Pro-Social Relationships with Peers W, R

Art Form(s): Music, Dance

Genre: Middle Eastern

Instrument(s): Strings (Oud, Bouzouki); Percussion (Dumbek, Djimbay, Rik, Tabla);Voice (Song sung in Arabic, Hebrew and Greek)

Musicopia offers quality
“Little Ones” programming
for Early Learning Centers

Assembly, Workshop, and Residency Offerings

Journey into Middle Eastern Music Assembly

A joyous presentation presents music and dance from Egypt, Lebanon, Greece and Israel side-by-side while exploring the geography and traditions of these countries. The Spice Route Ensemble guides students through modern and ancient Middle East lands, while promoting the importance of understanding and appreciating diverse cultures. This program takes audiences on a journey over the ancient spice routes and offers an experience of some of the world’s oldest musical traditions. Long-distance trade played a major role in the cultural, religious and artistic exchanges that took place among the major centers of civilization in Europe, Asia and Africa throughout antiquity. The Spice Route Ensemble brings these traditions into a contemporary context. The instruments, songs, and dances from Egypt, Greece, Israel and Lebanon are presented in an interactive format that encourages student participation. Percussions, voice, and traditional stringed instruments bring to life the rhythms and modes of the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean. Students will relate with surprising ease to the odd-time meters the ensemble teaches, and the dance steps. Student interactions with the ensemble members make this a memorable occasion bringing the entire room to its feet.

Best for: ELC  •  PreK-8  •  Special Needs  •  After-School/Community



Journey into Middle Eastern Music Workshop

The instruments, songs, and dances from Egypt, Greece, Israel and Lebanon are presented in a highly interactive format that encourages student participation. Percussion, voice, and traditional stringed instruments bring to life the rhythms and modes of the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean. The Spice Route ensemble demystify the peoples of the Middle East with an eye toward the modern and ear toward the past, helping to break down barriers and encouraging an understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures. (Max. ~25 students)

Best for: ELC  •  PreK-8  •  Special Needs  •  After-School/Community


Journey into Middle Eastern Music Residency

This residency commences with a joyous concert by the multi-national Spice Route Ensemble that places music and dance traditions from diverse cultures side-by-side. In the subsequent sequence of workshops, students learn about Egypt, Lebanon, Greece and Israel. Students learn traditional Egyptian and Greek rhythms, songs in Arabic and Hebrew and a traditional line dance—the Debke—from Lebanon.


In the workshops, students have the chance to explore new musical territory. For example, the musicians use traditional instruments to teach rhythms such as, Beledy 8/8 and Ayoub 2/2 (Egyptian) and Optomiko 9/8 and Kalimatanos 7/8 (Greek). Along the way, students learn about quarter-tones and monophonic music.


During the workshops, the members of the Spice Route Ensemble demystify the peoples of the Middle East with an eye toward the modern (Pizza Hut and shopping malls) and an ear toward the past (traditional songs and dances). Students become familiar with the geographic locations of Egypt, Greece, Lebanon and Israel and how the people of these countries are not necessary far away but are a part of us! Students work together to learn new skills and understand the significance of cooperation across cultural boundaries.

A final concert features students performing these rhythms, songs and dances together with the musicians of the Spice Route Ensemble. The student goals for this residency fall into a range of areas: for example, students will be familiar with: 1) the geography of the ancient Spice Route; 2) the Hebrew and Arabic alphabets and songs in both languages; and 3) how to recognize and play (or dance to) odd-meter rhythms.

Best for: PreK-12  •  Special Needs  •  After-School/Community

About the Artist

Featuring: The Spice Route

Ensemble Overview

The Spice Route Ensemble is comprised of internationally acclaimed musicians of diverse Middle Eastern and Eastern Mediterranean traditions working towards the common goal of producing excellent music. The Ensemble believes that this musical excellence serves as an example of multicultural cooperation. The featured musicians include, Bruce Kaminsky, Bill Koutsouros, and Michele Tayoun. The Spice Route offers Journey into Middle Eastern assembly and residency programs, as well as educator professional development sessions.


The first Spice Route performance was at the Francis Scott Key School in South Philadelphia on September 24, 2001, just 13 days after the devastating attack on the Twin Towers. This and other current events mantled the Spice Route Ensemble with the challenge of putting human faces to ethnic groups and cultures that many only know through the news. It also gave a familiar sound to students of Middle Eastern extraction who feared a level of isolation. The Spice Route Ensemble has been featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper and on National Public Radio. Their programs have been recommended by the University of Pennsylvania Center on Middle Eastern Studies and The Israeli Consulate.

Bruce Kaminsky’s early musical influences were the Jewish and Middle Eastern music he heard at home. He started studying bass at age14 and has performed with various rock and jazz groups, classical orchestras and Middle Eastern ensembles. He performed for the landmark 1994 Israeli/Jordanian Peace Concert at the United Nations, the 1998 Jewish Music Festival in Berlin, Germany, the 2003 Internacional de Musica do Algarve, Portugal, along with workshops with renowned Palestinian violinist Simon Shaheen and Concerts for Peace Tours with the multi-ethnic Middle Eastern group, Atzilut. He is on the faculty of Drexel University and Montgomery County Community College. He is also the creator and leader of the Spice Route Ensemble.

Bill Koutsouros is an astounding multi-instrumentalist. His father, John, was and is a renowned guitarist of Greek and Middle Eastern music and his mother, a belly dancer. His musical journey began at age 15 with his first red electric guitar. Bill plays the Bouzouki, a Greek Lute, the Oud, an Arabic lute, the Doumbek/Tabli, a goblet shaped Egyptian drum and the Riq a Middle Eastern tambourine. In 1995 he created the music group Animus, an original World Fusion ensemble. Animus has performed at the Kimmel Center and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Bill has been a part of the Spice Route Ensemble since its beginning.

Michele (Meesha) Tayoun began dazzling audiences, at a very young age, at her family's renowned Middle Eastern nightclub and restaurant, The Middle East. Meesha has also had training in ballet, modern dance, and jazz, which is evident in her graceful and creative, style, but her heart and passion lies within the musical and dance traditions of her heritage. Meesha's dance blends both the Lebanese and Egyptian styles of oriental dance, with her own personal modern flare. Her performance abilities include dancing, as well as singing, and this firsthand knowledge of Arabic music is an integral part of her dance interpretation. Michele continues to enhance her knowledge of Arabic music and song, by performing with accomplished regional performers, and has attended workshops with the award winning, internationally renowned Arabic composer and musician, Simon Shaheen. She has also, performed with Philadelphia Orchestra cellist, Ohad Bar David and his ensemble Intercultural Journeys, as a vocalist and dancer, as part of Intercultural Journeys, musical dialogue of peace between Arabs and Jews.

Joined Musicopia: 2001

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