The Kennedy Center

Kinan Azmeh


Described as “engagingly flamboyant” by the Los Angeles Times and possessing “a virtuosic, unique sound” by the Daily Star, Kinan Azmeh is gaining the reputation of being one of Syria’s new rising stars.
Born in Damascus, Syria in 1976, clarinetist and composer Kinan Azmeh was the first Arab to win the first prize at the Nicolay Rubinstein international youth competition in Moscow in 1997. Azmeh began his music education at the age of six at the Arab Conservatory of Music in Damascus and later at Damascus’s High Institute of Music, studying with Shukry Shawkey, Nicolay Viovanof, and Anatoly Moratof while pursuing his BS in electrical engineering from the University of Damascus. He completed his Masters degree and graduate diploma at the Juilliard School in New York, studying with Charles Neidich.
Azmeh’s performances on the world’s leading stages include solo appearances at the Tchaikovsky Grand Hall in Moscow; solo performances with the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra during its first American tour with Solhi Al-Wadi conducting; as a featured soloist with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra under Daniel Barenboim at the BBC Proms festival in London, Carnegie Hall, and the UN General Assembly in New York; the premiere of two clarinet concertos written for him by Dutch composer Guus Janssen at Lincoln Center in New York, and by Zaid Jabri at the opening of the Syrian Opera House in 2004.
He formed the ensemble Hewar in 2003, a groundbreaking group featuring clarinet, oud, and vocals, among other instruments, seeking to bridge the gap between classical, Arab, and jazz music. In addition to releasing albums in 2005 and 2007, Azmeh led the group on two tours in 2004 and 2005, with performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and other leading venues throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.  
Azmeh has shared the stage with Sylvain Kassab, Marcel Khalifé, Elliott Sharp, Kani Karaca, and Mari Kimura, among notable others, and has been a member of the Neolexcia new music group.
His compositions include orchestral, chamber, and solo works, as well as electro-acoustic collaborative works with visual artist Kevork Mourad. Azmeh’s film and theater works include the original soundtrack for the film Rigodon by Keith Sicat and Sari Dalena; Not for Sale and The Day I Died by Maryam Keshavarz; and original music for the dance show Consequences by Ingo Schwiger.
Kinan Azmeh