Bassam Nashawati’s performance has been described as “displaying the stamina of an athlete” while playing what one critic describes as the “mother of all violin concertos” Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D in the 1998 United States debut of the Syrian National Orchestra at UCLA’s Royce Hall. His playing has also been described as “exquisite” by the violinist/founder of the Juilliard String Quartet, Robert Mann.
Born in Damascus Syria, Bassam began playing the violin at the age of seven. After graduating from the Arab Institute of Music, he immigrated to the United States to pursue his musical studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where he earned a Bachelor’s degree studying with the late Isadore Tinkleman. Subsequently, he continued his musical education with renowned professor Donald Weilerstein at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM), where he earned a Master’s and a Professional Studies degree.
While in his last year at CIM, Mr. Nashawati performed Dvořák ’s Romance for violin and orchestra as a soloist and also as a first violinist with The National Repertory Orchestra in Breckenridge, Colorado in 1996. In addition, he has participated in numerous other music festivals including Pacific Music Festival in Japan and the Kent Blossom Music Festival in Ohio, which culminated with a joint concert with the Cleveland Orchestra. During this time period, he performed under the batons of world-renowned conductors/performers including Christoph Eschenbach, Pinchas Zukerman, Vladimir Spivakov, and Jahja Ling among others.
From 1996 until 1999, Mr. Nashawati played with the New World Symphony in Florida as Principal Second Violin and later as Concertmaster under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas. He led the second violin section in a tour with the New World Symphony in Europe, celebrating the orchestra’s 10th anniversary. During his tenure at the New World Symphony, Mr. Nashawati participated in several recording projects including PBS’s Great Performance production of the orchestra’s Beethoven Festival in 1999.
Bassam joined the San Antonio Symphony’s first violin section in fall 1999 and held a position as an adjunct faculty at St. Philip’s College for several years. Since that time he has been active performing locally in recitals, chamber music, and teaching, including coaching and leading sectionals with the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio (YOSA). Bassam has been an active participant and performer with an enthusiastic audience at the yearly fund-raising event “Music at the Museum” sponsored by the San Antonio Art Museum and the San Antonio Symphony League.
In addition, Nashawati has appeared many times as a recitalist and soloist with the Syrian National Symphony in his native country performing the Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor in 2005 and the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in 2009 in an all-Mendelssohn program as part of a special concert in honor of the composer’s 200th birthday commemoration. Many of his performances have been televised on Syrian Satellite channels.
Since 2004, Bassam has toured with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (WEDO) as Associate Concertmaster and Principal Second Violin. WEDO is an orchestra comprised of Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab musicians, led by world-renowned conductor/pianist Daniel Barenboim, promoting peace and dialogue among its musicians. While touring with West Eastern Divan Orchestra, he played to sold-out audiences in Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Scotland, Russia and in live televised broadcasts from the Royal Albert Hall in London and most notably in Ramallah, Palestine (West Bank). The journey to the performance and the concert in Ramallah in 2005 was recorded and appears on the DVD documentary film “Knowledge is the Beginning – West Eastern Divan Orchestra; Daniel Barenboim,” which won an International Emmy award in 2006. He rejoined the West Eastern Divan Orchestra in December of 2006 to perform at Carnegie Hall and at the United Nations in a farewell concert in honor of United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.
During the last few seasons with the WEDO, Mr. Nashawati has been part of a three-year project performing Beethoven’s cycle which took the orchestra on an extensive tour in South America. While in Argentina in 2010, Mr. Nashawati had the privilege to perform with Mr. Barenboim and members of Berlin Philharmonic including concertmaster Guy Braunstein in Schumann’s Piano Quintet in a sold-out chamber music concert at the historic Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Argentina to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Mr. Barenboim’s first public concert at the age of 7. In summer 2011, the orchestra went on a tour to China and South Korea, playing an important symbolic concert at the border between South and North Korea to promote peace and dialogue between the two nations. The tour that summer ended in Cologne, Germany with week-long concerts performing the complete Beethoven symphonies, which were recorded live on Warner Classics from Cologne Philharmonic Hall. In the summer of 2012, the WEDO continued touring Europe and performing at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms London 2012 Festival in a complete Beethoven symphony cycle culminating on July 27, the opening night of the London Olympics. These performances were recorded live on DVD.
Bassam has also pursued a theological degree in Orthodox Christian Studies and has been serving as a deacon at St. Ephraim Orthodox Church in San Antonio, Texas, of which he is a founding member, since 2005. He has been married to his beautiful wife Melissa since 2002 and they have two wonderful boys, Stefan and Ilyan.