About MESTO  
   The Conductor  
   Next Concert  
   Past Concerts  
   Guest Artists  
   Photo Album  
   Contact Us  

 Instrument Gallery


Own these CDs


Auditions to join

who use ethnic musical themes

Current Affairs

Guest Artists and Arrangers Performed with MESTO

Karima Skalli
By Sami Asmar

Morocco and the entire Arab World can take pride in seeing the rise of the next diva of Arab song, Karima Skalli, who will inevitably reach incredible heights rarely seen today, but reminiscent of the age of giants of the last century.The native of city of Fes was discovered at the age of 9 when she sang Umm Kulthum songs at family gatherings. As she developed her repertoire, she sang the works of other great singers but took special interest in Asmahan, the late Syrian Druz princess who moved to Egypt as a child with her mother and later famous brother Farid al-Atrache. Asmahan died at a young age in a mysterious accident after having left an incredible set of songs that are still appreciated by many generations of music enthusiasts. Karima is inspired by the Asmahan's voice. After early collaboration with the Moroccan composer Said Chraibi, she is now in demand for collaboration with the top Arab poets and composers.In her elegant and gentle style, Karima succeeded where many have failed by taking her art seriously, received musical training to enhance her incredible talent. Karima took her Moroccan heritage, home of the Andalusían arts, to Aleppo, Beirut, Cairo, and the entire globe to continue a journey of learning music of varying backgrounds, showing her discipline and professional approach to the art, which had earned her tremendous respect.Already called the Golden Voice, among other titles, in a short period of time, she became the featured artists of renowned festivals from Lebanon's Beiteddin to Cairo's Arab Music Festival. Thanks to Karima Skalli, the endangered state of tarab and enchantment is alive and prospering.

Dalal Abu-Amneh was born in Nazareth in 1983 to a music-loving family. At the age of 13, she started singing Palestinian folk songs at parties and social gatherings. She became famous for her performances of classical songs of Umm Kulthum. The first song she recorded, "Ana Albi wi-Rohi Fadak" (my heart and soul is for you) was rated in the top ten on local radio stations for several weeks. Her second song, "Bokra Jdeed," was in the top five of the Euromedcafe "other song" contest for intercultural dialogue and peace. Dalal combines tarab (classical Arabic music) with folk music, and makes use of many melodic modes (maqamat) and rhythms. She has participated in festivals around the world. Most recently, Dalal performed with the MESTO Orchestra from Los Angeles under maestro Nabil Azzam at the 2007 Jerash Festival. In addition to her musical career, Dalal is a student of cognitive and brain sciences at Technion Institute in Haifa, where she is training to be a neuroscientist. She is married to Dr. Anana Abbasi who also writes some of the lyrics of her songs. Dalal is a star that many see in her voice continuation of the great traditional music of the Middle East.

Zahra--A budding star, Zahra began performing in youth theatre in her native Morocco at an early age. She traveled as a singer in Egypt, Beirut, Tunisia, and Europe before settling in Los Angeles in the early 1980s. She studied music theory and classical voice, and has worked as a freelance singer all over the United States and Canada. In 1991, she produced her first CD, titled "Bidaya Wa Nihaya," in collaboration with composer Mr. Fahim Saadi. One of her recent performances was at the Arab-American Festival in Garden Grove, CA. Zahra admires great singers like Fayza Ahmad, Layla Murad, Warda, and Asmahan. In addition to her singing career, Zahra is an aspiring cinematographer and filmmaker. She has enjoyed singing with MESTO's diverse instrumentalists, and hopes that the audience will share her enthusiasm.

Anna-Suzette Eblen

As a young girl she sang with the San Diego Children's Choir and was there youngest soloist in the group. She began singing opera at the end of her high school career. First taking voice lessons from opera singer Lenore Silby. Now Anna studies with the ARC Academy of Sound And Music with Pandeli Lasarideus, and performs with the Small Opera of San Diego. This year she studied the part of Lola in the opera "Cavalira Rusticana". Anna plans to audition for the Metropolitan Opera at the end of this year. In December 2003 she was crowned Miss California Teen. She has performed with MESTO back in 2004 at the Redondo Beach Perfroming Arts Center where she captured the audience with her performance. In 2006 she was scheduled to perform with MESTO in Jordan. Instead the orchestra and Anna-Suzette performed at Schoenberg Hall at UCLA.

Laura Halladay has shown herself to be a flutist with a deep and varied talent. After completing her bachelor's degree and further studies with Roger Stevens and Jimmy Walker of the LA Philharmonic, she started a successful freelance career based in Los Angeles. She has been in demand in the studios for television, movie and cable/video productions. Her live performances have included principal flutist with the Korean Symphony at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, featured soloist with West Valley Chamber Orchestra, and performances at the Ambassador Auditorium. She has been a featured soloist with the Chamber Music Society of California, the American Guitar Society International, and has performed internationally presenting musical styles ranging from ragtime to middle eastern, chamber music to light jazz. She was the recipient of a gold record for her flute playing on the Linda Ronstadt album "Canciones de Mi Padre".

Most recently she has recorded for harpist Stephanie Bennett on several of her solo albums, including this summer's release "Lumiere". She is the flutist for Angels of Venice and can be heard on several of their CD's, most prominently their biggest selling release "Angels of Venice" on Windham Hill records. Her recorder expertise and ethnic flute playing can be heard featured on such diverse recording projects as the top-selling video from Amazon "George Lucas in Love", Jim Centorino's "Three Dreams", Hap Palmer's latest release for children "One Little Sound", and the Celtic Chamber Consort's premiere release of their first album of the same name. In 2005 she was a featured soloist on the album, "The Crescent" by the MESTO Orchestra, and the film score for the Hallmark film, "The Colt". Her great love of Jazz and ethnic music constantly leads her into new directions which combine elements of dance, new age and world music.

Stephanie Bennett began studying the harp as a junior high school student in Ann Arbor, Michigan, after having studied some guitar and piano as a child. She continued her studies of classical harp performance with Ruth Dean Clark at the University of Michigan, where she also studied composition with Pulitzer Prize winning composers Leslie Bassett and Ross Lee Finney. She continued her music studies at the Dick Grove School of Music and at UCLA Extension, with courses in Advanced Modern Harmony, Arranging, 20th Century Harmony, Film Scoring, etc.
Stephanie lives in the Los Angeles area, where she composes, records and produces her own CDs, composes music which has been heard on television shows such as MURPHY BROWN, PARTY OF FIVE and THE SINGLE GUY, and on the feature film A TIME FOR DANCING; writes musical arrangements for other artists (including arrangements for Celtic harpist Julie Mondin, rocker Ozzie Osbourne, Native American flute player Golana, Celtic fiddler Mary Barton, New Age ensemble Midnight Skye, and alternative songstress Chloé), , She composes chamber music which has been performed by ensembles such as "Entr'amis" (classical harp, flute and viola trio), and "Campanile", (renowned contemporary handbell ensemble).

Marinella Nittu is an International Star. Her wish is to help Americans of all ages; children, young, and old appreciate opera through her "Popera"(pop/opera).
Marinella has a powerful and rich voice. She delivers captivating and unforgettable performances. Her voice is often described like one of an angel's. Marinella is an active performer in the Los Angeles area, performs in well-established venues.Even though Ms. Marinell Nittu mostly appeared with bands, she is proving that she can do a great job with big orchestras such as MESTO. When Ms. Nittu first came to audition for MESTO, the musician and the orchestra friends felt her talent and gave her thumbs up. To complete circuit, conductor Azzam says, Mr. Shelly Cohen was immediately alerted: We need three new arrangements! As usual his answer was "by when?" Four days later the arrangements were completed. Ms. Nittu's performance with MESTO had a great responses from the audience.

Louis Skoby has been playing the bouzouki for over 20 years and, even though he is American born, his playing exemplifies the true sound and style of this Greek instrument. He has appeared on several TV shows and recorded for many Greek and Armenian productions. He still tours the western states (including Alaska and Hawaii) with the "Hellenic Sounds," which perform for the largest Greek festivals and events. The Hellenic Sounds latest recording is "Two Homelands"


Star singer Mr. Samir Rizq was born in Syria where since his youth was performing in school and social activities. Later he was associated with several professional groups who performed live and recorded for the state- sponsored radio and TV station in Damascus. In the early 1980s Mr. Rizq started a successful tour in Canada and the U.S. in Montreal, Michigan, Massachusetts, New Jersey and California.
Mr. Samir Rizq performs continuously in community social activities and music festivals.
For his expressive and strong voice on stage, he is often referred to as "Al-Mutrib al-Aseel" (deeply rooted in the music traditions). Mr. Rizq is truly a master of the traditional folk genres of Syria and the Levant. He has also held this distinction in the Middle Eastern community in Los Angeles for the last twenty years.

Guest Artist Dr. Antoine Mansour is considered the founding father of this orchestra. Together with his wife Claire they gave their blessings and contribution for the legal status of the organization. Dr. Mansour graduated from the medical school in Cairo University and in 1973 started a successful medical career in Hollywood as a surgeon. He is also a clinical professor of surgery at UCLA School of Medicine and an active staff member in several medical institutions such as Harbor UCLA, Queen of Angels, Saint Vincent Medical Center, Glendale Memorial Medical Center and Hollywood Presbyterian and Temple Hospital. Dr. Mansour is a member of numerous associations of surgery and the author of several medical publications. His social activity is rich and diverse. One of the posts that Dr. Mansour held was the President of the Los Angeles Convention and Exhibition Center Commission.

Dr. Antoine Mansour has a beautiful voice and he only sings in his church. Tonight we will be delighted to hear him sing two songs of the celebrated composer Elie Choueiry and another song from the repertoire of the Lebanese Superstar Tony Hanna.
Dr. and Mrs. Claire Mansour live in Beverly Hills and have two beautiful daughters; Dr. Marie Mansour, orthodontist and Dr. Natalie Mansour, pediatric dentist, both recently graduated.

Mohammad Omranifar, a Tar virtuoso and composer, has performed with orchestras in Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan and throughout the USA and also masterfully plays several other ethnic instruments: the Iranian Tar, Seh-Tar, ud and the Baghlama.

Omranifar received his early training from Azerbaijan's well-known master of the Tar, Mahmud Shaterian and graduated with honors with a B.A. in Music in 1998 from the Tehran Institute of Fine Arts in Iran. He began his professional career as an orchestra player with the Iranian National Radio and Television music production unit with which he recorded numerous pieces for broadcast and performed in many live concerts throughout Iran.

Holding the distinction of being the first Tar player in the USA to perform a concerto with an orchestra, Omranifar played the work of Azerbaijani composer Haji Khanmammadov with the La Mirada Symphony orchestra in Southern California on January 2002 under conductor Leon Guide. This Tar concerto debut was featured in the Winter 2001 issue of "Azerbaijan International" magazine (see: www.Azer.com).

Laurette Ghulam was born in Syria. At the age of 6, she gave her first singing performance at her school where her peers admired her talent. Laurette says: "It is a gift of God and my mother". Her mother was also a naturally gifted amateur singer. To be able to perform music Laurette joined the church's choir since it was the only venue permissible for girls to sing. But she hoped to perform for the public secular songs. Laurette deeply admires and performs the songs of famous female singers such as, Umm Kulthum (Egypt), Asmahan (Egypt), Nur al-Huda (Lebanon) and Fayruz.(Lebanon). Since she lived in the United States, Laurette gave several concerts in collaboration with other singers and dancers. After continuous encouragement of Dr. Nabil Azzam, Laurette is back into singing in the church's choir and collaborating with MESTO where she is having pleasure and new experience.

Kourosh Zolfagharkhani (Zolani) was born in 1970 in a very small town in Iran. He began training music relatively early, at the age of 14, and started composing music at the age of 18. He studied classic music and received his Bachelor degree in music composition in 1998. He got many awards for his creative composing in different competitions. One of his most important contributions to the field of music has been his invention of a Chromatic Santour .It should be pointed out that with current traditional tuning of the Santour, it is only possible to perform the diatonic intervals, meaning that musicians could not use the Santour in classical orchestras. Kourosh ? new method of tuning the Santour has offered him the capacity to perform altered notes and chromatic intervals at the scale of two and half octaves.
Glory of Life, Shabnam, Peaceful Planet, My Childhood Dream and Didar are some of his famous pieces that are arranged for the Chromatic Santour and the Symphony orchestra.
Kourosh was one of the last students of Master Faramarze Payvar, who is the most famous Santour player in Persian music history. During the last 12 years he has performed many concerts both as a soloist and also as a Santour player in different orchestras. All of the performances were fantastic and attracted large audiences. Kourosh has come to America recently, and during this short time he has performed in many different festivals and venues

Woroud Milad was born in Zababdeh near Jenin, Palestine. She grew up in a musical gifted family that played various instruments such as the 'ud, qanun and buzuq. Miss Woroud was nine years old when she started performing with a small group of her family members. At nineteen she joined several musical and dance ensembles. She was a lead singer for folk and dance groups, most importantly: "Firqat Sharaf lil-funun ash-Sharqiyyah", "Firqat Asayil al-Sarraj" and "Zayrat al-Madayin".
Miss Woroud also sang with the choir at the University of Birzeit. In 1997 the Ministry of Arts and Cultures presented her with a grant to study traditional classical Arabic singing known as "al-Muwashshahat" in France.
In California, she recently performed with at the forth "Arab American Festival" in Fullerton and has performed with Kan Zaman Community Ensemble in Los Angeles.
Miss Woroud performed with MESTO in its debut concert on March 11, 2001

Hamid. Guest Singer with MESTO on Nov. 25, 2001) Our talented singer, is one of the few who carry on the legacy of the late Egyptian singer Abdel Halim Hafez (d. 1977). His voice is a combination of sweet articulations and delicate expressions. Mr. Hamid has lived in Los Angeles with his family for the last twenty-five years. He successfully participated in numerous musical events such as the Arab-American Day Festival held annually in Los Angeles. Our leading singer also recorded many songs composed by well-known musicians such as Hasan Abu Saud and Adel Mourci. His life's dream is to see a comprehensive and just solution for the Palestinians who since 1948 live in harsh conditions and refugee camps.

Sheldon Cohen was educated at Brooklyn College and Juilliard. He became the Assistant Musical Director of the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, and remained so for 30 years until Carson's retirement in 1992. For more than 25 years Mr. Cohen has been a part of America's music community, having led the Los Angeles Pops, Virginia Pops and Pasadena Pops orchestras as guest conductor. Mr. Cohen is also the founding director of the New Horizon Singers, an 80-voice choir that performs several concerts a year. His musical compositions and arrangements cover a broad range from classical to pops. In addition, he has produced and recorded many albums for various record companies, two of which were nominated for Grammy Awards. Mr. Cohen arranged several works for Mesto including Miserlou; Spanish Sephrdic Medley; Nover On Sunday, The Carnival of Venice and about ten other compositions that have not yet been performed by MESTO.

Kamil Alipour began studying the tar at Tehran School of Music under the guidance of master Ali Akbar Shahnazi. Later he attended Tehran University with leading musicians such as Huseyn Ali Zadeh and Ali Rahbari. There he enriched his knowledge of Persian classical music theory and studied setar, daff and traditional singing. Mr. Alipour's compositions and arrangements have been featured in 25 albums, among them Darwishan for the famous female singer Homayra and Ayaneh Dar Ayaneh for the renowned singer Aref. Before coming to the United States in 1991, Mr. Alipour performed regularly on Persian Radio and television stations in Tehran with the celebrated orchestra Samaei. His song Hallaj Vashan was performed by MESTO when he also was fratured as tar player.

Ahmad Ahmadi was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. He has lived with his family in Los Angeles since 1986. He received his training in Persian music with Kamil Alipour and studied western classical music at Pierce College. Mr. Ahmadi will release his first record album this winter. In his recording he performs Persian song in the classical style, employing Persian instruments such as the tar, setar, daff and Persian violin (ghaychack). Most of these songs are written by the celebrated Persian classical poets, Rumi and Hafez. Tonight Mr. Ahmadi will sing two of his favorite songs, "Hallaj Vashan" and "Ilahi Naz." Guest Artist with MESTO on Nov. 25, 2001

Betty Byers. A multi-talented musician. Violinist, pianist, violist, teacher and arranger, Betty Byers has worked as arranger for television, commercials and recorded libraries, specializing in different styles of chamber music. Ms. Byers worked for many years as a recording musician in major studios, playing in orchestras for such artists as Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, Vanessa Williams, Prince, Snoop Doggy Dog, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. Ms. Byers has taught chamber music and jazz at the Henry Mancini Institute. Recently she completed a collection of original pop music for recorded library. Ms. Byers has participated with MESTO since it was established and played in its debut concert on March 11, 2001.
Joseph Chamaa is a multi-ethnic musician. He began his musical activities in 1957 by joining the broadcasting orchestra of Egypt as a first violin, and then he moved to Lebanon and joined the Conservatory of Lebanon for 23 years, and the BBC broadcasting orchestra performing hundreds of recording sessions. He is a violinist, pianist, composer, and arranger. Forty years teaching violin and playing in Symphonic orchestras. As a soloist he performed in many weddings and private parties. More than ten years he performed as a pianist in different hotels and restaurants. In his tour around the world he joined the Fairuz group in their concerts all over the U.S.A. England, Germany, France, Belgium, Algeria, Morocco, Syria, Jordan and the U.A.E. He also performed for the Pope in the Vatican. In 1976 he created the Concept Violorelax, which is a suite of 20 calming melodies composed for relaxation and sold in the pharmacies of Lebanon. In the U.S.A. he performed in the TV shows of Murphy Brown and the Young and the Restless. Now he is teaching violin privately and in schools, while still performing with New Valley Symphony orchestra, and MESTO.
Miamon Miller, composer and MESTO violinist and violist, has written his second work for MESTO, his Romanian Suite. His Greek Suite was premiered by Mesto in its first concert. Mr. Miller has over 30 years experience as a professional violinist and has played in numerous recordings, films, television and commercial sound-tracks. He received a B.A. in composition and an M.A. in ethnomusicology from UCLA. Although a specialist in the folk music of Eastern Europe, Mr. Miller has considerable playing experience and theoretical understanding of music in areas as diverse as the Near East, Mexico and the Anglo-American tradition. As composer, his film and television credits include: Tale from Arab Detroit (1995 documentary film produced by Access and Olive Branch Productions); screen credit for "Ali's Tune" and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman (3 episodes from 1993-1995).
Kareem Roustom was born in Syria. He grew up in Damascus and moved to the United States in the early 1980's. Mr. Roustom has studied at the Berklee College of Music, Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell where he received a B.A. in Music Business and Performance. He has also studied with renowned jazz pedagogue, Charlie Banacos and Harvard University faculty composer, Michael Gandolfi. Mr. Roustom is an experienced guitarist and 'ud player. Some of his session works include Brooklyn South (NBC) and Dilbert (UPN). Mr. Roustom is also a talented composer. Television credits include arranging and orchestrating music for NBC's Cold Feet and Showtime's Beggars and Choosers. He has also received the Pete Carpenter Fellowship which entitled him to an apprenticeship with television composer, Mike Post. Recently, Mr. Roustom composed music for MTV's Undressed, and scored the independent film Shadow Glories. Mr. Roustom joined MESTO and played the 'ud since it was founded. He also arranged Longa Kurd by Jamil Owaise and Avraham Avinu, variations by Nabil Azzam; and Inta 'Umri (song of Umm Kulthum) and Sama'i Kurd both with Azzam.

Site Designed by Shadi Muklashy