Steeped in the musical traditions of the Near East and trained in western concert music and jazz, Syrian-American Kareem Roustom is a musically bilingual composer who has collaborated with a wide variety ranging from the Kronos Quartet to Shakira.
Roustom has been commissioned to compose works for the Kronos Quartet, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the Grand Teton Music Festival where he will be composer-in-residence during the 2018 season, the Landmarks Orchestra (Boston), the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Educational Department, the Michigan Philharmonic, the Crossing Choir, Coro Allegro (Boston), the Boston Children’s Chorus, clarinetist Kinan Azmeh and the Deutsches Symphonie Orchestre, the Aplle Hill String Quartet, and others. Upcoming commissions include a violin concerto for violinist Michael Barenboim and the Pierre Boulez Ensemble as well as a second violin concerto for the Dallas Symphony and principal second violinist Angel Fuller-Heyde. Roustom’s music has been performed at renowned festivals & venues such as the BBC Proms, the Lucerne Festival, the Salzburg Festival, the Grant Park Music Festival, Grand Teton Music Festival, the Verbier Festival, the Klara Festival (Brussels), the Philadelphia Orchestra Chamber Music Series, LSO St. Luke’s (London), Elbphilharmonie (Hamburg), Pierre Boulez Saal (Berlin), the Royal Academy of Music (London) and others. Roustom’s music has been performed by the Malmo Opera Orchestra (Sweden), the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Staats Theatre Kassel Orchestra, the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, the Michigan Philharmonic, the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, and others. Upcoming orchestral performances include those by the Minnesota Orchestra, the Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen, the Virginia Symphony, Symphoria and others. Additionally, Roustom’s music has been performed in Argentina, China, Jakarta, Japan, Armenia, and in parts of the Near East.
The New York Times has described Roustom’s Roustom’s Ramal for orchestra “propulsive, colorful and [an] immediately appealing creation.” Stephen Pritchard in The Guardian described Ramal as “arrestingly quirky and postmodern…music with lots of personality.” The Chicago Tribune has described Roustom as “a gifted and accomplished artist…one of the most prominent active Arab-American composers.” BBC Radio 3 classical music host, Tom Service, described Roustom’s music as “among the most distinctive to have emerged from the Middle East.”
Current projects include the recording of his Clarinet Concerto: Adrift on the Wine-Dark Sea with clarinetist Kinan Azmeh and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester for the Berlin based Dreyer-Gaido label (distributed by Naxos) in May of 2018, as well as the release of his Rage Against the Tyrant(s) for choir and string orchestra by Boston based Coro Allegro.
Roustom’s work in film includes twenty film scores, an Emmy nomination, a fellowship to the Sundance Film Composers Lab as well as BMI’s Pete Carpenter Fellowship Award. In a past life, Roustom arranged strings for Shakira including her 2008 duet with Beyoncé titled ‘Beautiful Liar’. Roustom holds the position of Professor of the Practice at Tufts University where he teaches composition at the department of music.
Of his triple string quartet A Voice Exclaiming, commissioned for the Kronos Quartet and Providence, Rhode Island- based Community MusicWorks, David Harrington (Kronos Quartet founder and first violinist) wrote: “I think that with A Voice Exclaiming, Kareem Roustom has made a vivid, thought-provoking new piece that reflects hope in the time we live in, and the immense possibility for positive change as well as its awesome uncertainties and dangers.”
In a review of Roustom’s oratorio “The Son of Man” The Boston Globe wrote “The music… is pitched toward the impassioned, adapting Arabic-derived scales into a rich, heavily perfumed chromaticism, affording both eerie atmosphere and high-impact drama. Moment to moment, [Roustom’s] invention is prolific.” In 2012 Coro Allegro, under the direction of David Hodgkins, won the prestigious ASCAP/Alice Parker Award for the 2011 premiere of “The Son of Man.”
Roustom is an oud player who has performed in the USA and Europe and has recorded for groups such as the Boston Camerata on the Warner Brothers Classics label. Roustom has been a resident/visiting composer at the College of William and Mary, Arizona State University, Curtis Institute of Music, Dartmouth College, Northern Illinois University, and the New England Conservatory of Music, among others.