By Falah Gulzar
In additional to being an excellent higher education institution, American University of Sharjah (AUS) has proven to be a center for promoting art and culture in the region.
The diverse backgrounds the university’s students and faculty come from, have helped the institution to centralize musical, theatrical and other forms of cultural expressions and performances.
The university now serves as a hub for cultural activities such as the annual AUS Global Day Festival to showcase and celebrate the university’s cultural diversity; the annual AUS Carnival, a festive evening where people come to enjoy delicious foods, music and entertainment from different places around the world; as well as Club Fairs held twice a year to highlight the many ethnic and interest-oriented clubs that students can be a part of.
Furthermore, American University of Sharjah also invites artists from all over the world throughout the semesters to come, perform and expose the AUS community on these various cultures. The performances vary form classical to ethnic and modern genres.
For instance, in the October 18, 2016 performance, an audience of about 250 people enjoyed an evening of classical music by The Moscow Chamber Duet from Russia, featuring violoncellist Oleg Bugaev and pianist Dzhafarova Elmira.
The Moscow Chamber Duet from Russia performing at American University of Sharjah on Tuesday, October 18, 2016.
The show included works of Bach, Schubert, Beethoven, Schumann, Rachmaninov, Brahms, Sarasate and Piazzolla.
According to Toufic Saifi, American University of Sharjah Director of Event Management, a significant number of people in that audience came from outside the university.
On another performance held on October 5, 2016, an international duo of Polish pianist Magdalena Wajdzik and Spanish violinist Niko Managazze performing together as TheDuello, played to a full house at the university’s Performing Arts Building rotunda.
The evening featured classical pieces with modern variations. Amongst the arrangements the artists performed were their own versions of Paganini, Mozart and Bach.
That AUS performance was Wajdzik’s and Managazze’s first show together, something Wajdzik said both were excited about. They also took time to share their life stories in order to inspire the students and others.
TheDuello performance at American University of Sharjah on Monday, October 5, 2016.
A Dubai resident who teaches at the Emirates Center for Musical Arts, Wajdzik said she has been playing the piano since she was six. Her mother made her audition to join a music school in Poland, and then she formally started playing the instrument.
As a child she resented practicing and it took her a while to believe she could perform. However, now she is attached to the art form and enjoys her time with the instrument.
After completing school, she transferred to the UK to continue her studies, and where she began her own teaching career.
She credits her instructors who influenced her and pushed her to get experience and exposure within the field, leading her to where she is at now.
Currently she tries to practice everyday, to keep her muscles moving and her “musical mood” going, she said.
She also have an interest in “performance psychology” which has helped her combat nervousness and anxiety before going onstage. She said she has taken several courses regarding the subject. It has taught her to rearrange how she does a lot of her thinking, to spend time away from the piano, and to meditate before shows.
Furthermore, her former instructor advised her to always plan out her day before a performance because “tiny aspects like these, matter a lot,” she said.
After coming to the UAE, she said, her teaching style changed. According to her, when she taught in Europe, most of her students tended to study music to pursue music as a career; however, in this region the majority of her students play for pleasure.
It was at the Emirates Center for Musical Arts where she met Managazze, a string specialist, violin professor and conductor.
Sharing his own story, Managazze said he was first introduced to the violin at the age of four by his parents. He was so young during his first concert, in which he had a minor performance, that he doesn’t even remember it.
Managazze said he regards his second show, when he was six, and in which he had a more prominent part, as his first official concert.
After some years he moved from his native Spain to Russia to formally study music at the Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Moscow State Conservatory. He lived in Russia for 11 years.
He said he has always been inspired by musicians converting pieces originally meant for a different instrument into arrangements for the violin. It has led him to make his own variations as well.
For example, he has added Irish and Arabic folk music elements to Paganini works, two of which he performed at their concert at American University of Sharjah.
Also, listening to different types of music inspires him adding that any instrumentalist must do this.
Addressing aspiring artists in the audience, Managazze advised artists to finish mastering their performance pieces at least a month before any show. “Learning complicated pieces cannot be done overnight,” he added.
“These cultural events are very important to the American University of Sharjah,” said Saifi who manages these events. “ We also had Trio Khimaira featuring oud player Ziad Ben Youssef, guitarist Luis Velasco-Pufleau, percussionist Bachir Rouimi and a special guest bassist Éric Duboscq performing at AUS on Sunday, October 30, 2016.”
Trio Khimaira performing at American University of Sharjah on Sunday, October 30, 2016.
“Similar events are going to be held throughout the semester,” Saifi added.
So if you are part of the American University of Sharjah family or part of the community around the university, you are encouraged to attend all these events, enjoy the performances and be exposed to the variety of cultures showcased from time to time at AUS.
Falah Gulzar is a Mass Communication student at American University of Sharjah.
Visit www.aus.edu for more information about American University of Sharjah