By Heather Bursheh

The Bmus (undergraduate honours degree) in Arabic Music was established at Birzeit University in 2016, in cooperation with the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM), and aims at spreading a creative and vibrant musical culture among Palestinian youth.

It welcomed its first intake of 10 students in the Autumn term of 2016. The degree focused on music performance on Arabic instruments: oud, buzuq, qanoun, violin, percussion, nai and voice. In addition to solo and ensemble performance classes, in which a student concentrates on specific skills of one those instruments, the compulsory music courses give the students a broad education in Arabic and Western music theory, solfege and history; courses in music education and instrumental teaching; choir and choir leadership; arts management, and sound engineering, preparing them for a wide range of career choices in the field of music. There is an average annual intake of 10 students on the major programme, and another 5 on the minor programme.

Undergraduate Music Students learning Birzeit

The majority of the first intake of students were experienced musicians who had studied Arabic music at the ESNCM for several years and were already on the teaching staff there, but who had never had the opportunity to study music at tertiary level because no suitable programme existed in Palestine. This marked an important milestone in music education in Palestine, where a cohort of musicians with a high level of expertise in Arabic music now not only had taken their performance skillset to a new level, but were also equipped with new skills and experience in related subjects, and were qualified on a par with those who had studied Western music abroad, thus expanding their own career and salary opportunities.

In the Autumn of 2021, the programme was expanded and renamed the BMus in Music, to include a wider variety of musical instruments and styles.

The music programme affords students access to first-rate faculty and provides performance opportunities in a wide range of ensembles. The performance of music is at the heart of the programme’s mission. The programme has two complementary goals: to inform the performance of music through study of theory, and practical experience. 

Creative careers are at the heart of economic, social and cultural transformation. Graduates of the music programme have the skills and expertise to develop the professional music scene in Palestine and overseas to new and exciting levels, including:

  • Working as professional performing musicians
  • Working in local ensembles
  • Working as general music teachers
  • Providing lessons on musical instruments in Palestine, musical institutes in the region and the world.
  • Managing projects related to music
  • Working as a sound engineer in studios or concerts
  • Working in technical media productions
  • Composing and producing music for theater plays and films
Undergraduate students at Birzeit

In 2022 the music programme consists of 30 students on the major programme and 6 students on the minor programme. A total of 16 students have graduated from the programme, with another 5 due to graduate in 2022. Plans for the near future in the Faculty of Art, Music and Design include the establishment of a new diploma programme in Sound Engineering.

You can read our full Spring 2022 newsletter here