Zaki Nassif was born on the 3rd of July 1916, and died March 11th, 2004. He studied music from 1936 to 1941 at the AUB Institute of Music (1929-1949). Zaki Nassif is one of the most important and prolific composers in the history of Lebanon, having significantly contributed to a mid-20th-century cultural renaissance in the young nation. Important characteristics of his style include a novel use of harmony, 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 Program for Music 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 programs in Lebanese and Oriental Music at AUB’s department of Fine Arts and Art History.
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 was signed between AUB and SACEM (“Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Editeurs de Musique”) with the aim of registering and protecting all of Zaki Nassif’s compositions.
Since 2009, the Program has been organizing a school competition “A choir from every School” and in 2015 initiated an “AUB Zaki Nassif Arabic Ensemble,” its members belonging to the AUB Community at large.
The Program is sustained through donations to AUB Zaki Nassif Fund. In 2013-2014 and on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Zaki Nassif’s passing, the Program started a yearly “AUB Zaki Nassif Festival,” consisting of monthly events during each academic year.