Basma Edrees and Ava Nazar met at The Juilliard School while pursuing their Masters degrees. They have been friends ever since, collaborating on multiple performances including a highlight performance at the United Nations in New York. Trained in the Western Classical musical tradition and growing up in their respective Middle Eastern musical traditions, Egyptian violinist Basma Edrees and Iranian pianist Ava Nazar feature the rich aesthetics of both musical worlds and are passionate about expanding musical access across various communities.
Basma & Ava’s program revolves around the music of the contemporary Iranian composer Reza Vali. As a young student at the Tehran Conservatory, Vali had read about a Hungarian composer by the name of Béla Bartók who had collected Hungarian folk music using it as a source of inspiration for his works. Vali liked the idea and began collecting Persian folk music himself! During the last year of his studies in Vienna, he started using the folk music he had collected as a basis for his modern compositions. Nicknamed the Persian Bartók, Reza Vali is considered one of today’s leading exponents of using folk songs as a basis for composing contemporary music. This procedure will be featured in the first piece on the program entitled Love Drunk (Folk Songs, Set No.16B). Alongside Vali’s works, the concert will feature a sonata by Johannes Brahms who is one of Vali’s favorite composers. In fact, Vali had written the Three Romantic Songs featured on this program as an homage to Brahms with the last movement of this work entitled Tango Johannes. Having mentioned Tango, Basma & Ava will be paying tribute to the composer who introduced them to the beautiful, rich world of Argentinian Tango, ending their program with Le Grand Tango by the revolutionary Astor Piazzolla.
Basma Edrees is a graduate of The Juilliard School where she received her Masters in Violin Performance and Mannes School of Music where she received her Bachelors degree. She studied with Joseph Lin, Laurie Smukler, Sally Thomas, and Catherine Van Hoesen. Basma has performed under the batons of many great conductors including Alan Gilbert and Daniel Barenboim. Basma has served as Associate Concert Master of the Oakland Symphony during their 2015-2016 season. She also worked with the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra as well as the Santa Rosa Symphony. Basma has performed as a soloist in various countries including the USA, Montenegro, Ethiopia, and her native country, Egypt.
Equally at home with Arabic music, Basma performed with renowned musicians from the Arab world and has been invited to give Arabic Music workshops at UC Berkeley and Stanford. She currently teaches Arabic music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She has held the position of Music Director of the Aswat Women Ensemble for four years; an all-female Bay Area community ensemble specializing in Arab music. She also served as the co-manager and instructor of the Aswat Women Empowerment Program during their 2019 Fall season; a program designed to empower women of Arab descent through the study of their own rich musical tradition.
Basma’s proficiency in Music Theory earned her assistant teaching positions as well as teaching fellowships at The Juilliard School while she was a student there. She studied Counterpoint with Robert Cuckson and Philippe Lasser. She has passed this knowledge onto her students as a member of the Music Theory faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where she taught the art of Counterpoint herself.
Iranian-American pianist Ava Nazar is an active collaborator and soloist. Her recent performances include those at notable venues such as the United Nations, Merkin Hall, National Sawdust, American Museum of Natural History, and Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, as well as the Aspen Music Festival, and the Music Academy of the West where she served as a collaborative piano fellow. Ava has been featured at Académies Internationales d’été du Grand Nancy in France and has been a prizewinner of several competitions including the National Youth Music Festival, the Biennial Piano Competition of New Music, and the Fajr International Music Festival in Tehran.
Ava received her Bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, where she worked with Donn-Alexandre Feder, and her Master’s degree in Collaborative Piano from the Juilliard School as a recipient of the Bloomfield, Garvey, and Shendell Scholarships, under the guidance of Jonathan Feldman, Margo Garrett, Andrew Harley, and Cameron Stowe. She has also had the privilege of working with many distinguished artists including Henri Barda, Jeffrey Cohen, Roger Vignoles, Rita Sloan, Anne Epperson, J.J. Penna, Diane Richardson, Franz Helmerson, and David Finckel.
Ava enjoys her career both as a performer and an educator. She has served as a collaborative piano staff at the Juilliard School, and has taught at established music schools such as the Brooklyn Music School and Nord Anglia International School in New York. Ava is currently a faculty member at the Opus 1 music studio in the San Francisco Bay area.
Passionate about expanding musical access across communities, Ava has worked with several non-profit organizations including the Sing for Hope organization which aims at bringing art to communities in need, as well as the ArtistYear organization with the mission to increase arts access and education for underserved youth in America.
Ava enjoys performing at unusual/non-standard venues. She has had multiple performances at Port Authority Bus Terminal, public schools, nursing houses, and hospitals. Ava is also very passionate about house concerts and have had many performances with her longtime friend and violinist Basma Edrees through the Groupmuse platform which is an online social network that connects young classical musicians to local audiences through house concerts.
Reza Vali was born in Ghazvin, Iran, in 1952. He began his music studies at the Conservatory of Music in Tehran. In 1972 he went to Austria and studied music education and composition at the Academy of Music in Vienna. After graduating from the Academy of Music, he moved to the United States and continued his studies at the University of Pittsburgh, receiving his Ph.D. in music theory and composition in 1985. Mr. Vali has been a faculty member of the School of Music at Carnegie Mellon University since 1988. He has received numerous honors and commissions, including the honor prize of the Austrian Ministry of Arts and Sciences, two Andrew W. Mellon Fellowships, commissions from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Kronos Quartet, the Carpe Diem String Quartet, the Seattle Chamber Players, and the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music, as well as grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Pittsburgh Foundation, and the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education. He was selected by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust as the Outstanding Emerging Artist for which he received the Creative Achievement Award. Vali’s orchestral compositions have been performed in the United States by the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Seattle Symphony, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the Baltimore Symphony, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and Orchestra 2001. His chamber works have received performances by Cuarteto Latinoamericano, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the Carpe Diem String Quartet, Kronos Quartet, the Seattle Chamber Players, and the Da Capo Chamber Players. His music has been performed in Europe, China, Chile, Mexico, Hong Kong, and Australia and is recorded on the Deutsche Grammophon, Naxos, New Albion, MMC, Ambassador, Albany, and ABC Classics labels.