American Univesity of Beirut

School choirs competition at AUB fosters a national culture of collective singing

​​Sally Abou Melhem, Office of Communications,​​

“We, the government and the people, need to spread high-end music in homes and schools, to the youth comprehensively,” reads one of late musician Zaki Nassif’s notes included in the book Min Awrak Zaki Nassif which compiles some of his personal papers. Nassif mentions in another of his notes, “A great, long-term, and wide-ranging effort awaits us.” 

Inspired by the words of Zaki Nassif,  a school choirs competition was established in 2009 under the Zaki Nassif Program for Music (ZNPM) at AUB, with the help of former director of the AUB choir, Dr. Paul Meers, in addition to that of the late Dr. Walid Gholmieh, president of the Lebanese Conservatory (1991-2011). The competition aims to develop music literacy in the Lebanese society, and preserve and promote the musical heritage of the country and region. 

“AUB Zaki Nassif Program’s yearly competition ‘A Choir from Every School’ is open to all institutions. It intends to meet the vision of Zaki Nassif, as expressed in his personal papers, by spreading a national culture of collective singing through well-trained choirs in every Lebanese school,” said chairperson of the ZNPM, Dr. Nabil Nassif.

This competition is an annual event anticipated by many private and public schools in different areas in Lebanon. It brings together students of different backgrounds, to perform and compete in front of a jury of music professionals, experts, and educators. The competition consists of two rounds and concludes in selecting the winning choirs for the gold, silver, and bronze trophies with corresponding monetary rewards. Participating schools also receive feedback on their performances, in addition to certificates of participation.

This year, 43 private and public school choirs participated in the competition, and 21 schools qualified to the final round that was held at AUB’s Assembly Hall. The winners were Collège Mariste Champville in first place, International College Ain Aar Junior Choir in second place, and both Collège Patriarcal Raboueh and Collège des Soeurs des Saints Coeurs, Hadath, sharing third place. 

The competition often has several touching performances by students that resonate with the audience and the jury members. In a previous edition, a performance by the winning choir of the Lebanese School for the Blind and the Deaf, Baabda, reminded the audience of the beauty of music and its ability to transcend the limitations of senses.

In addition to the school choir competition, the ZNPM seeks to fulfil its mission to preserve and promote the national musical heritage, starting with that of Zaki Nassif, and to foster excellence in the teaching of music by contributing to its advancement, through several activities and initiatives. These include regular concerts organized as tributes to honor the great musicians of the Lebanese music renaissance era, some performed by the ZNPM’s Arabic Ensemble, which brings together a number of talented AUB students, staff, and alumni as vocalists and musicians, under the baton of Retired General George Herro. 

The ZNPM is also collaborating with AUB’s Continuing Education Center (CEC) to create the Arabic and Oriental Music Studies Program at CEC, which offers intensive courses leading to a certificate and a diploma in Arabic and Oriental music practice. Moreover, the ZNPM has supported the AUB University Libraries in acquiring original and copies of archives of some of Lebanon’s most celebrated musicians such as Zaki Nassif, Walid Gholmieh, and Nasri Chamsedine, for the preservation of these precious items in the university’s archives.

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