Zaki Nassif was born on the 3rd of July 1916, and died March 11th, 2004. Having studied music at the AUB Institute of Music from 1936 to 1941, he was one of the most important and prolific composers in the history of Lebanon, and contributed significantly to a mid-20th-century cultural renaissance in the young nation. Important characteristics of his style include a novel use of harmony, and unique combinations among text and music, instrumental colors and rhythmic patterns, and folk dance influence. He left the world a rich musical heritage, which was the result of a new and uniquely Lebanese school of composition.
In December 2004, the Zaki Nassif Music Program was instated at the American University of Beirut. It is housed in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and managed by an Academic Committee appointed by the Dean, whose members are selected from all AUB Faculties.
The primarily aim of the Program is to preserve and promote the musical heritage of Zaki Nassif. It also seeks to foster excellence in the teaching of music by contributing to its advancement through a variety of activities that include organizing competitions, concerts, conferences, and seminars; inviting professional performers and scholars to present their work at the University; awarding fellowships, scholarships and prizes to students in Zaki Nassif ‘s name to contribute in promoting musical excellence in performance and research. It also seeks to initiate new courses and new graduate programs in Lebanese and Oriental Music at AUB’s department of Fine Arts and Art History in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
One of the main achievements of the Program has been the transfer of all of Zaki Nassif’s archives to Jafet Library in January 2008. This donation by his family of all his 1100 compositions constitutes his life’s repertoire. The achievement of tis project is unique in Lebanon and the Middle East, and it may hopefully provide a model for future efforts in preserving the region’s rich musical heritage. Furthermore, in March 2009, an agreement has been signed between AUB and SACEM (“Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Editeurs de Musique”) in view of registration and protection of all of Zaki Nassif’s compositions.
In addition, the Program has been organizing the school competition “A choir from every School” since 2009.
The Program is sustained through donations to AUB Zaki Nassif Fund and will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the passing away of Zaki Nassif through monthly events it will be organizing during the academic year 2013-2014.