When there’s so much negative press out there about the Middle East, it’s refreshing to be able to talk about that part of the world in a positive light. It’s also a personal point of pride to showcase someone of Middle Eastern origin doing something inspiring and uplifting. That’s why it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Lamees Audeh. She’s an artist, a musician, a creative, and the co-founder of the Canadian Arabic Orchestra and the Festival of Arabic Music and Arts.
As an Egyptian, I often find myself cringing at the mainstream news. I’m saddened not only by how people from the Middle East are portrayed, but by the actions that too many Arabs have taken, driven by marginalization, vulnerability to radicalization, and a lack of hope and desperation. Sadly, this is what most people think of when they think of the Arab world. They forget that the Middle East is a hugely diverse place, filled with people who are also doing amazing things. That’s why I’m so happy to welcome the Festival of Arabic Music and Arts to the Canadian cultural landscape.
The goal of both the CAO and FAMA is to connect and create a dialogue between Arabs living in Canada and the rest of the Canadian population through music and art. Lamees and her cofounder Wafa Al Zagha wanted to channel their own passion for music to help to build bridges between the Canadian and Arab population, as well as to celebrate the musical heritage of Arabic culture.
While Lamees was born in Toronto like I was, she actually spent most of her life in Jordan and Palestine. She discovered her love of music very early on in life, and was composing little ditties from as young as 4 years old. She began taking piano lessons soon after, and at age of 20 Lamees became the first Piano student in Jordan to obtain the Advanced Certificate (with distinction) of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. After graduating university she moved to Palestine to teach Piano, Music Theory, History of Western Music and Piano Music Literature at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, and became the Academic Director of the school’s Jerusalem branch. Lamees is also a consummate performer, touring the UK and the Middle East, and is helping to bring the FAMA to life this fall.
We got the chance to chat with Lamees about the inspiring work she does.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was young I always wanted to be a performer of some sort. On some days I would say I wanted to be an actor, on others a dancer but the main thing was that I wanted to become famous for something.
How did you get involved with the work you currently do?
Music has been a part of my life ever since I was a small child. My parents are the sort of people who made sure that I followed through with whatever I started, so I became a piano teacher and obtained a Masters in Music performance. This opened up an opportunity for me as a music teacher in Jerusalem where I met my other half, Wafa, and with whom we started performing duets (Piano and Qanun). He and I started performing with more musicians when we came to Canada in 2013 and established the Canadian Arabic Orchestra in 2014.
What is your WHY? (The reason why you do the work you do)
The reason why I do what I do is that I love two things: Music and People! Bringing people together as part of the Choir and Orchestra team and also different communities within Canada means a lot to me and to Wafa who shares the same passion. We are happy that we can bring together people from the different communities that live in Canada to enjoy our music.
What’s piece of advice would you give to someone trying to do what you do, or trying to follow their own dreams?
The piece of advice that I would give someone trying to do what I do, or trying to follow their dreams is that the more success you achieve, the harder the journey, so hang in there no matter what because it is not easy. There will be a lot of setbacks along the way but there will be a lot of happy moments and successes during the journey as well. Make sure to celebrate those moments and enjoy the journey as it unfolds.
How do you do manage to do it all?
How do I manage to do it all? Sometimes I ask myself that same question. I am a mother of three boys and I am running the Canadian Arabic Conservatory of music in addition to teaching piano and doing all the orchestra work. I manage by not wasting any time; People who do waste time irritate me. I plan my days in chunks (Kids, Orchestra, Music School) and give each a certain number of hours’ work. Sometimes it gets tough but things fall into place.
Who inspires you?
My mother inspires me greatly. She managed to do so much in her life. Although married at 18 years old she pursued her childhood dream of becoming a lawyer, studying law while all of her children were already in college. She is a very wise woman who has so much to offer the world.
If you could pick one charitable organization to ask our readers to donate to or volunteer with, which would it be?
My Charitable Organization of choice would be The Arab Community Centre of Toronto (ACCT). This is because they help people across cultural, ethnic and religious divides, bringing people together, which is what Canada is all about.
The Festival of Arab Music and Arts continues until November 12th. Check out some of the remaining events and come out and learn about Middle Eastern culture too!
Friday, November 10 @ Isabel Bader Theatre, Toronto
Show starts at 6:30 FREE
Show starts at 7:30 Tickets from $35
Saturday, November 11 @ Bluma Appel Theatre, Toronto
Show starts at 7:30 Tickets from $55
Sunday, November 12 @ Living Arts Centre, Mississauga
The Road to Baghdad – Naseer Shamma
Show starts at 6:00 Tickets from $55
For a full Festival schedule and to purchase passes and tickets please visit: canadianarabicorchestra.ca/fama/