Kinan Azmeh

Musician and Composer

Hailed as “intensely soulful,” “a virtuoso” by The New York Times and as "spellbinding" by The New Yorker, Kinan Azmeh is one of Syria’s rising stars. With his utterly distinctive, "incredibly rich sound" (as the CBC referred to it), he is equally at home in many different musical genres, and in the open, fertile spaces between them. His work seamlessly intertwines Western with Eastern styles, classical training with improvisational finesse.

Born in Damascus, Kinan was the first Arab to win the Premier Prize at the 1997 Nicolai Rubinstein International Competition in Moscow. He is a graduate of New York's Juilliard School as a student of Charles Neidich and the Damascus High Institute of Music where he studied with Shukry Sahwki, Nicolay Viovanof and Anatoly Moratof. He also holds a degree from Damascus University’s School of Electrical Engineering. In 2013, Kinan earned his Doctorate Degree in Music from the City University of New York.

Kinan has appeared worldwide as a soloist, composer and improviser. Notable appearances include: Opera Bastille, Paris; Tchaikovsky Grand Hall, Moscow; Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall and the UN's General Assembly, New York; The Royal Albert Hall, London; Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires; der Philharmonie; Berlin; the Library of Congress, The Kennedy Center, Washington DC; the Mozarteum, Salzburg and the Damascus Opera House for its opening concert, Syria.

He has appeared as soloist with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the NDR big-band, the Kiev Camerata, the Knights Orchestra, the Izmir State Opera Orchestra, the Corasara Orchestra, the Osnabruck Symphony, the Morgenland Festival Orchestra, The Qatar Philharmonic, The New Juilliard Ensemble and the Syrian Symphony Orchestra, among others. He has shared the stage with Yo-Yo Ma, Marcel Khalife, Aynur, Daniel Barenboim, Jivan Gasparian, Zakir Hussein, Francois Rabbath, Simon Shaheen, Solhi-al-Wadi, Calefax Reed Quintet, and members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

Kinan’s compositions include solo, orchestral, and chamber works, often in collaboration with film, live illustration, and electronics. His discography includes three albums with his ensemble, Hewar, several soundtracks for film and dance, a duo album with pianist Dinuk Wijeratne and a recent release with his New York Arabic/Jazz Quartet. He serves as artistic director of the Damascus Festival Chamber Music Ensemble, with whom he released an album of new contemporary Syrian chamber music, written especially for the ensemble by various composers. He is also a frequent guest faculty member at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music and is on the advisory board of the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra. In addition, he is a member of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble, with whom he performed in February 2015, in collaboration with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Alan Gilbert.