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Alain Barker
Jacobs School of Music

Linda Cajigas
Jacobs School of Music

Last modified: Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Director of Iraqi orchestra to join ArtsWeek panel on diplomacy and the arts

Discussion moderated by Jacobs Dean Emeritus Charles Webb also includes conductor Cliff Colnot, consultant Cathy Barbash

WHAT: "Arts, Diplomacy, and the U.S.A." panel discussion
WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 22, 1 p.m.
WHERE: Sweeney Hall, IU Jacobs School of Music

Feb. 17, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- When Karim Wasfi talks about using the arts to combat political strife, people tend to listen. Wasfi -- a cellist who has been profiled by publications including the New York Times, Newsweek and Forbes -- is director of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra in war-torn Baghdad. He's also an alumnus of Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music, where he studied with his longtime musical inspiration, cello great Janos Starker.

Wasfi will join Jacobs Dean Emeritus Charles H. Webb, Jacobs conductor Cliff Colnot and international arts advocate Cathy Barbash on Sunday, Feb. 22, in Bloomington for a free, open-to-the-public panel discussion titled "U.S.A., Diplomacy, and the Arts."

Among a number of topics, the panel will discuss recommendations by the 2005 U.S. State Department Advisory Committee on Cultural Diplomacy on how to more effectively use the arts in diplomatic activities around the world.

Panel Participants

Charles H. Webb

Print-Quality Photo

In 2004, Charles H. Webb was appointed by Colin Powell to a Congressional Committee to Advise the Secretary of State on Cultural Diplomacy. In 2005, he was elected to the Board of Directors of the American Symphony Orchestra League and received the Distinguished Alumni Service Award from Indiana University.

With an international career in performance, education and administration, Webb was dean of the Jacobs School of Music from 1973 to 1997. During this time, the Jacobs School was named No. 1 in quality in three independent national surveys: Change Magazine, Chronicle of Higher Education and U.S. News and World Report.

Along with his administrative duties, Webb has maintained an active performance schedule as a conductor with the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir and at the Jacobs School of Music. As a pianist, Webb has appeared as soloist on several occasions with the Dallas and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestras, and has collaborated with many Jacobs School faculty members, including Josef Gingold, Janos Starker, Margaret Harshaw, James Pellerite, Harvey Phillips, Patricia Wise and others.

A native of Dallas, Webb is a member of the recommendation board for the Avery Fisher Prize, a director of the Busoni Foundation, member of the advisory board of the Van Cliburn Piano Competition and member of the National Advisory Board of the American Guild of Organists.

Cathy Barbash has spent more than 20 years in the arts, as manager and consultant for organizations as diverse as the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Department of State of the United States, the Ministry of Culture of the People's Republic of China, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Juilliard School, Het Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), Arts Midwest, the Asian Cultural Council, the International Society for the Performing Arts, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and the League of American Orchestras.

Barbash is a specialist in the performing arts and cultural policy of the People's Republic of China. She is a member of the National Committee on United States-China Relations and, in 2007, produced the official visit of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities to China, which resulted in the renewal of the Cultural Implementing Accord between the two nations. Barbash was principal organizer and programmer of the U.S. State Department-sponsored U.S./China Performing Arts Presenters Exchange Program and consultant to the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Washington, D.C., on the cultural exchange tour programmed in conjunction with Chinese President Jiang Zemin's 2002 State Visit.

In the past decade, Cliff Colnot has emerged as a distinguished conductor and a musician of uncommon range. Colnot has worked extensively with Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez, and has served as assistant conductor at the West-Eastern Divan Workshops for young musicians from the Middle East and at the Lucerne Festival Academy. Colnot is principal conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's contemporary MusicNOW series and of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. He frequently conducts at the IU Jacobs School of Music, University of Chicago and DePaul University, as well as for the International Contemporary Ensemble and eighth blackbird.

Born in Cairo in 1972 to an artistic family, Karim Wasfi, the director, soloist, and artistic adviser for the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra (INSO), began his study of the cello at the Music and Ballet School in Baghdad, Iraq. He subsequently received his artist diploma there, and master's and performance diplomas in cello, electronic music technology and conducting from the Jacobs School of Music. Mentors include Janos Starker, Mstislav Rostropovich and Aldo Parisot.

Wasfi has served as principal cellist of several ensembles, including the INSO, Cairo Symphony Orchestra and the Egyptian Chamber Group. He has served on the faculty at the Music and Ballet School of Baghdad, Jacobs School of Music and the Cairo Academy of Arts.

Invested in cross-cultural exchange and mutual understanding through music of different genres, Wasfi has given solo concerts in the United States, Europe, Egypt and Iraq, appearing on numerous networks, including CNN, NBC, BBC and Al-Jazeera. Wasfi served as head of the British Council in Baghdad from 2003 to 2004.

For more information, see ArtsWeek, or Events at the IU Jacobs School of Music.