NAO History

Our Very First Performance


The National Arab Orchestra (hereinafter “NAO”) began in 2009 as a student ensemble at the University of Michigan under the direction of Michael Ibrahim.  Following the first concert, the ensemble doubled in size to become an orchestra and began rehearsing for its next concert on January 28, 2010 at Britton Recital Hall.  The success of the past two concerts led Michael to establish the orchestra’s nonprofit entity under the name, Michigan Arab Orchestra in the spring of 2010.  Under the leadership of its founder and music director, the orchestra established a second chamber group (the takht ensemble) which had its first performance in December of 2010.  With its continued expansion, the organization began to gain the support of its community which included the addition of the orchestra’s co-founders, Usama Baalbaki, Moose Scheib, and Dr. Vasken Artinian.  Within the next three years the Michigan Arab Orchestra quickly established itself as the Nation’s leading organization for Arab music, which led the orchestra to its home at the Detroit Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in 2012 and culminating in the orchestra’s first major grant from the Knight Foundation in 2013.  From there the Michigan Arab Orchestra began its Building Bridges Through Music (BBTM) program, which began in the Detroit Public School System. The BBTM program was designed to teach students about the beauty and richness of the Arab culture while providing opportunities for cultural understanding and enrichment.  On January 26, 2014, the National Arab Orchestra made its national debut at the Woodruff Arts Center (Atlanta Symphony Hall).  Since then, the orchestra began collaborating on a string of projects which  have  included: the Haflah concert with the Michigan Philharmonic premiering an original score by Grammy nominated composer Kareem Roustom, the  MidEast x MidWest concert with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra which sold out a few days after the 2016 election bringing the Toledo community closer together, the East Meets West Hip Hop Fusion Project which is effectively integrating Arab music into Western culture, and most recently, a commission of newly composed music performed live to the silent films of Mohamed Bayoumi in collaboration with the Arab American National Museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the National Performance Network; exposing the music and culture to an entirely different audience.  The NAO continues its mission to preserve and integrate Arab culture by creating memorable musical experiences through education and performance with an emphasis on the musical traditions of the Arab world.