William and Mary Middle Eastern Music Ensemble

Dr. Anne K. Rasmussen, Director

Middle Eastern Music EnsembleEstablished in 1994, the Middle Eastern Music Ensemble is composed of 15-25 primarily undergraduate students who come to the group with excellent musicianship, but no prior experience with the Arab, Turkish, Persian, Armenian and Greek Traditions that comprise the music of the middle east. Over the years the group has presented numerous formal concerts that featuring guest artists from a variety of Middle Eastern traditions including: Munir Beken (composer, ‘ud and tanbur); Nadim Dlaikan (nay), George Sawa (qanun); Yusef Kassab (composer, vocalist); Nabil Azzam (composer, violin); Latif Bolat (composer, vocalist, and baglama) and Kenen Yildiz (baglama); Sue Rudnicki (darabukkah); Nader Majd (vocalist and tar) and Ali Analou (tonbak); Maryem Hassan Toller and Ernie Toller (vocalist and nay); Richard and Harold Hagopian (‘ud and violin); Karim Mohammad (percussion and dance); Toufiq Ben Amour (vocalist), Scott Marcus, multi-instrumentalist and director of the University of California, Santa Barbara Middle Eastern Music Ensemble. The ensemble has worked with dancers Michele Forner, Jana Beaufait and her troupe, Najla Turczyn, and Alexandra King.

In February, 2006, the ensemble sponsored a workshop with the faculty ensemble of the Edward Said National Conservatory from Palestine and performed some of their works in  Washington D.C. 

 The traditional music of Iraq was the focus of the Ensemble’s work during the Spring season of 2007 when the group worked with Amir ElSaffar an Iraqi American who has devoted his career to salvaging Iraqi music in the face of cultural genocide. Mr. ElSafffar visited the campus twice and performed as guest artist in a concert of Iraqi music. During this same season the ensemble presented a major concert in Washington DC sponsored by the Embassy of Spain with the theme “Andalusia: Cultural Crossroads. The concert included traditional Arab and Spanish-Mediterranean repertoire along with several traditional Sephardic pieces sung by guest vocalist, cantor, Ramon Tasat.

Over the years the William and Mary Middle Eastern Music Ensemble has been invited to perform for the Marhaba Club of the Tidewater Arab American community, SERMEISS: The Southeast Regional Association of Middle East and Islamic Scholars, MACSEM: The Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicolgy, The University of Virginia, Duke University, The University of Pittsburgh, and Georgetown University, and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church and The Prism in Charlottesville, VA. In the Williamsburg area the Ensemble has performs regularly for the Occasion for the Arts, Echoes, the James City and York County School Systems, various churches in the region and countless events on the campus of the College of William and Mary.

Dr. Anne K. RasmussenRasmussen in Morocco






Anne K. Rasmussen, the founder of the group, is Associate Professor of Music and Ethnomusicology in the Department of Music at the College of William and Mary. She has been performing Middle Eastern music since 1985 in conjunction with her studies at the University of California at Los Angeles and for her fieldwork among Arab Americans in communities across the country. Prior to her arrival in Williamsburg, Rasmussen directed ensembles at Oberlin College and the University of Texas, and she has performed widely as a soloist and with other ensembles in the US and abroad.

At the college, Rasmussen teaches a wide variety of courses in music and ethnomusicology, the anthropological study of music and culture throughout the world.  She has published widely on American musical multiculturalism, music and culture in the Middle East, and Islamic musical arts in Indonesia. She is contributing co-editor of Musics of Multicultural America (Schirmer 1997) a book that is an outgrowth of her extensive research and more specific publications based on research among Arab Americans.

Rasmussen’s articles appear in the journals Ethnomusicology, Asian Music, Popular Music, American Music, the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, The World of Music, and the Harvard Dictionary of Music and she has contributed chapters to various edited volumes. She has also produced four compact disc recordings documenting immigrant and community music in the United States. In addition to her work on music in the Arab world and Middle East, Rasmussen is currently at work on a book entitled Women's Voices, the Recited Qur’ân, and Islamic Musical Arts in Indonesia that is based on nearly two years of ethnographic research in Indonesia. She is a former Fulbright senior scholar, has served as the First Vice President of the Society for Ethnomusicology, and is the 2001 recipient of the Jaap Kunst prize for the best article published in her field.  Pictured:  Anne Rasmussen in Assilah, Morocco for the conference "Music in the World of Islam", summer 2007.