Wanees Zarour, Director of the Middle East Music Ensemble, Recognized as Esteemed Artist by the City of Chicago

Wanees Zarour headshot

Congratulations to Wanees Zarour who was awarded a 2021 Esteemed Artist Award from the City of Chicago

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) recently announced the 2021 recipients of its Individual Artists Program grants. These awards support Chicago's practicing artists in creating work that develops their craft and elevates their careers while adding to the cultural vitality of the city of Chicago. Thirteen high-qualified artists from varied disciplines -- music, visual art, theater, and film -- were selected. They will receive the Esteemed Artist Award, a special $10,000 grant for expenses associated with their practice within the 2021 grant period, including studio rental, supplies, travel, and equipment.

Wanees Zarour photo

The Department of Music’s Middle East Music Ensemble Director, Wanees Zarour, is among the honorees of this year’s award. Zarour is a composer, arranger, educator, and multi-instrumentalist steeped in Middle Eastern maqam and jazz traditions as well as directing and arranging for large and small ensembles.

Since 2010, Zarour has led the ensemble, contributing to the growth of both the ensemble and the audience. The 60 piece orchestra performs Turkish, Arab, and Persian, at a sold-out Logan Center for the Arts quarterly, featuring guest artists from around the world. Zarour works on building a cohesive community of musicians and artists around the ensemble and transcribes and arranges all the music that is performed by the group.

His composition projects include the Wanees Zarour Ensemble’s 2014 release “Quarter to Midnight” and his newest project, 'The East Loop' exploring the intersections of the maqam and jazz traditions. In 2020, Zarour and guitarist Fareed Haque took on the roles of co-directors of the newly re-established Chicago Immigrant Orchestra.