Simon Shaheen dazzles his listeners as he deftly leaps from traditional Arabic sounds to jazz, Flamenco and Western classical styles. His soaring technique, melodic ingenuity and unparalleled grace have earned him international acclaim as a virtuoso on the 'oud and violin. A professor of music at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Shaheen is one of the most significant Arab musicians, performers and composers of his generation.
A Palestinian, Shaheen began playing the 'oud at the age of four, and a year later studying violin at the Conservatory for Western Classical Music in Haifa. After graduating from the Academy of Music in Jerusalem in 1978, Shaheen moved to New York City to complete graduate studies in performance at the Manhattan School of Music, and later in music education and musicology at Columbia University. In 1982, Shaheen formed the Near Eastern Music Ensemble in New York. In the 1990s, he released four albums of his own while also contributing cuts to producer Bill Laswell's fusion collective, Hallucination Engine. Leading his group, Qantara, the album Blue Flame (2001) was nominated for 11 Grammy Awards. Shaheen has collaborated in performances and recordings with Sting, Carlos Santana, Quincy Jones, Al Dimeola, David Brubeck, Mohammad Abdul Wahhab, Bill Laswell, Jeff Beck, Angelique Kidjo, Cheb Khalid, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, and others.
Since 1994, Shaheen has produced the Annual Arab Festival of Arts held in New York at the Brooklyn Museum and Town Hall. He founded the Annual Arabic Music Retreat, held each summer at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, in 1997. In Palestine, Shaheen conducts annual music workshops and residencies at major art institutions. Recipient of countless international awards and honors, including a National Heritage Award at the White House (1994), Shaheen most recently received an Honorary Doctorate from the American University of Beirut.