Syrian-American Kareem Roustom is an Emmy-nominated composer whose genre crossing collaborations include music commissioned by conductor Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, as well as projects with pop icons Shakira and Tina Turner, and with acclaimed British choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh. Roustom has been the composer-in-residence with the Württembergische Philharmonie in Reutlingen, Germany for the 2019 – 2020 seasons, with the Grant Park Music Festival (2019) and the Grand Teton Music Festival (2018). Roustom’s music has been performed by orchestras that include the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen, the Berlin Symphoniker, and at renowned festivals & halls such as the BBC Proms, the Salzburg Festival, the Lucerne Festival, Carnegie Hall, the Verbier Festival, the Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin, the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, as well is in the Near East, Armenia, Jakarta, China and Japan. Roustom’s music has also been recorded by the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester (Berlin), and the Philharmonia Orchestra (London). In addition Roustom has collaborated with pop-artists such as Shakira, Beyonce, Tina Turner and others. The Chicago Tribune wrote that Roustom is “a gifted and accomplished artist…one of the most prominent active Arab-American composers,” BBC Radio 3 described Roustom’s music as “among the most distinctive to have emerged from the Middle East”, and The New York Times described his music as “propulsive, colorful and immediately appealing.” The Guardian (London) wrote that Roustom’s music is “arrestingly quirky and postmodern…music with lots of personality.” Of his Violin Concerto No. 1, composed for violinist Michael Barenboim, Der Tagesspiegel wrote ““Roustom’s Violin Concerto No. 1, an homage to Mozart’s fascination with Arabic & Turkish music, is not Mozart “alla turca”, but conversely Turkish and North African “alla Vienna”: As far as the vitality, the profound cheerfulness, the dance like dialogue between instruments are concerned, Roustom’s work is infected by Mozart’s élan.”
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 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.