The Flushing Town Hall Family: Introducing Sami Abu Shumays

Sami HeadshotThis fall, we are introducing you to our family, the folks who make Flushing Town Hall tick. You may know some of them, or simply see them hard at work making sure you enjoy a great show, program and workshop.

But rather than just share their bios with you, we thought we’d have some fun, and so we posed a bunch of offbeat questions to the staff. This week, we’d like to introduce you to Sami Abu Shumays.

Sami, a multi-faceted arts administrator, artist, and educator, has served as Deputy Director at Flushing Town Hall for three years. In this capacity, he does a little of everything, but particularly focuses on Government Relations, Human Resources, Board relations, and Institutional partnerships.

A Harvard Graduate and Fulbright Fellow, he previously served as Director of the Queens Community Arts fund, re-granting monies from the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and corporate donors, to hundreds of artists and arts organizations in the borough of Queens.

He has performed fundraising and development work for Alwan, an Arab Arts organization based in Manhattan, and served as a Volunteer Coordinator for Make Music New York.

As an educator and scholar, his mission has been to raise awareness about the importance of traditional cultural knowledge, and he has given workshops and classes on Arabic music at Alwan, The New School, the City University of New York, Wesleyan University, The College of William and Mary, as well as at world music retreats and events across the country. He has developed innovative online pedagogy in Arabic Music at www.maqamlessons.com.

Sami is also a talented violinist and vocalist in the Arab Classical tradition, and his ensemble, Zikrayat (www.zikrayatmusic.com), is the foremost representative of Egyptian music and dance in New York, specializing in repertory from the “Golden Age” of Egyptian movie musicals (the 1930’s-60’s). Zikrayat has performed at Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, GlobalFEST, the American Folk Festival, Joe’s Pub, and numerous other festivals and venues since its founding in 2006.

What is your favorite feature of Flushing Town Hall?

The multi-ethnic programming

What childhood hobby did you enjoy the most?

Gardening

What’s your hobby now?

Attempting to catch up on sleep

What’s your favorite song?

 “Awidti Eini” by Umm Kulthum 1958 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4zTS5aVN4g (yes this is one song,1 hour and 4 minutes long!)

If you could bring ANY performer to Flushing Town Hall – with cost and space not being a factor – who would it be?

Lady Gaga, or George Wassouf

What were your best and worst subjects in school?

Best: Math, Worst: Gym

What is your secret pleasure?

 It’s a secret.

If you could be a superhero, who would it be?

“Equity Man” – with the power to undo systemic injustice around the globe, and provide reparations where needed.

When you step away for a bite to eat in Flushing, what do you crave?

 Pho Vietnamese Restaurant (38-02 Prince Street)

 What performance at Flushing Town Hall made the biggest impression on you?

 Dafnis Prieto (Nov. 2014)

Who was – or is – your role model for a life well-lived?

I admire bits and pieces of lots of people, but don’t hold anyone up as a role model.

Mac or PC?

Both.

If you were stranded on a desert island with any two people, who would you choose?

A good ship-builder and a good navigator.  Probably some of those native people from Hawaii who figured out how to sail to Tahiti and back in 1975 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hokulea – because then I could get off of that island!

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