Kinan Azmeh Named Classical Movements' First-Ever Composer-in-Residence

Syrian-born composer, Grammy-winning clarinetist Kinan Azmeh to write orchestral, chamber and choral works for Classical Movements’ Eric Daniel Helms New Program

Alexandria, VA, March 10, 2017 --( Classical Movements is pleased to announce Kinan Azmeh (b. 1976) as its first-ever Composer-in-Residence. In this brand new role, Classical Movements will commission Dr. Azmeh to compose works for orchestral, chamber and choral ensembles, under its Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program — established in 2005.

Neeta Helms, Founder/President of Classical Movements, remembers first meeting Azmeh, traveling via rail from New York City to New Haven, Connecticut:

“Classical Movements’ relationship with Kinan Azmeh began by chance, when we met, serendipitously, on a train. The two of us became fast acquaintances through our mutual love of great performances and repertoire. Kinan’s music is incredibly inspirational, and we feel honored to support the creation of more compositions from him. While discussions about specific commissions of new works have been in the works for quite some time, we also feel it reflects our commitment to a diverse and accepting world. Kinan, who has studied at Juilliard and lived in America for 16 years as a permanent resident, was recently affected by the U.S. travel ban, which is antithetical to our vision for cross-cultural experiences and understanding. We are honored to shed more light on this fine clarinetist’s compositional work.”

A native of Damascus, Syria, the now New York-based Azmeh frequently performs with and composes for Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, which just won the 2017 Best World Music Album Grammy for Sing Me Home.

On being named Classical Movements' inaugural Composer-in-Residence, Kinan Azmeh, on the road in Berlin, states, “My personal philosophy has always been that we do music to experience emotions that we don’t have the luxury of experiencing in real life. It is a dream for a composer to be part of such an inspiring collective as Classical Movements, who are trusting my creativity and whose support will help me search and reach a little bit deeper within. I hope that this incredibly thrilling feeling that I have right now will find its way into the music I am writing.”

Since founding the Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program 12 years ago, Classical Movements has commissioned composers from some 20 different countries to create more than 50 new works. Alumni include both choral and orchestral, male and female voices: John Corigliano, Joan Tower (twice), Christopher Rouse, Stephen Paulus, Michael Gordon and Caroline Shaw, as well as Paquito D’Riviera, Tania Leon, Bright Sheng (twice, too), Piret Rips-Laul, Oscar Escalada and Mokale Koapeng (twice, yet again). Premiered everywhere from Carnegie Hall to Kennedy Center to Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, combined, Helms-commissioned composers have won 5 Grammys, 4 Pulitzers, 1 Oscar and 1 MacArthur. Named after Neeta Helms’ late father, the Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program is yet another way Classical Movements demonstrates its commitment to both its clients, as cutting-edge artists, and to the wider world of classical music — promoting the creation of fresh, exciting work that encourages international collaboration.

Hailed as both a “virtuoso” and “intensely soulful” by the New York Times, “spellbinding” by the New Yorker and an “incredibly rich sound” by the CBC, Kinan Azmeh’s utterly distinctive style across different musical genres has gained him international recognition as clarinetist and composer. Azmeh has been touring the world as soloist, composer and improviser. Notable appearances include: Opera Bastille, Paris; Tchaikovsky Grand Hall, Moscow; Carnegie Hall and the United Nations’ General Assembly, New York; Royal Albert Hall, London; Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires; Philharmonie; Berlin; Library of Congress, Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.; Mozarteum, Salzburg; Hamburg’s recently-opened Elbphilharmonie and the Damascus Opera House for its debut concert in his native Syria. Azmeh has appeared as soloist with, among others, the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Qatar Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony and Syrian Symphony Orchestra and has shared the stage with Yo-Yo Ma, Daniel Barenboim, Lebanon’s Marcel Khalife, Kurdish singer Aynur and Armenian duduk master Djivan Gasparian. His compositions include several works for solo, orchestra and chamber music, as well as film, live illustration and electronics. His discography includes three albums with his ensemble Hewar, several soundtracks for film and dance, a duo album with pianist Dinuk Wijeratne and a recent album with his New York Arabic/Jazz Quartet. Azmeh serves as Artistic Director of the Damascus Festival Chamber Music Ensemble, with whom he released an album of contemporary Syrian chamber music, written especially for the ensemble by various composers. He is a frequent guest faculty member at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music and serves on the advisory board of the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra. A student of Charles Neidich, Kinan Azmeh is a graduate of the Juilliard School and both the Damascus High Institute of Music, where he studied with Shukry Sahwki, Nicolay Viovanof and Anatoly Moratof, and Damascus University’s School of Electrical Engineering. In 2013, Kinan earned his doctoral degree in music from the City University of New York.

For more information on both Kinan Azmeh and Classical Movements' Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program, please visit
Classical Movements
Logan K. Young
711 Princess Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314