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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)

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  •  Students with Disabilities  •  After-School/Community


Also available as a Workshop or Residency!

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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