The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi announces opening of Berklee Abu Dhabi

Berklee Abu Dhabi aims to foster local talent and creativity through performing arts masterclasses and workshops. With courses starting from 1 March 2020, registration is now open at

Berklee Abu Dhabi in Saadiyat Cultural District is offering a programme of dynamic educational experiences including workshops, masterclasses, courses, ensembles and private instruction for those wishing to develop their creativity or take their talent to the next level. The new centre is the result of a partnership between Berklee College of Music, the internationally renowned institute of contemporary music and the performing arts, and the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi).

Launching on 1 March 2020, programmes offered at Berklee Abu Dhabi will serve local and regional students of all ages with instruction in music production, songwriting, vocal skills, dance, theatre and other disciplines.

An exciting addition to the Saadiyat Cultural District, Berklee Abu Dhabi is located in the newly renovated Norman Foster-designed UAE Pavilion building, next to Manarat Al Saadiyat. The structure has been transformed into a 42,000-square-foot arts education centre, with facilities including a performance space, a world-class recording studio, rehearsal studios, practice rooms, ensemble rooms, a tech lab and office space.

“Part of our long-term cultural strategy is to not only bring the best artistic and musical talent to the emirate, but to nurture the homegrown talent that we have right here,” said HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi. “Berklee Abu Dhabi’s programme is designed to appeal to a broad spectrum of audiences, at all levels of ability from beginner to advanced. Whether participants would like to take up a new hobby, or have dreams of a creative career path, we are now offering the highest calibre of music and performing arts instruction to the Abu Dhabi community. This is an important step in further establishing the emirate as a global hub for culture and education.”

Berklee College of Music President, Roger H. Brown, commented, “Berklee is excited to work with Abu Dhabi to create an environment that nurtures the growth of talented musicians, actors and dancers.  We believe that such an education not only enriches the culture of a place, but allows its people to partake in one of humankind’s oldest and most pervasive rituals — artistic expression of the joys, sorrows, struggles and achievements of life.”

For its leadership, Grammy and Latin Grammy-winning engineer and music producer Gael Hedding has been appointed Director, and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Mayssa Karaa as Artistic Director. Both are Berklee alumni.

Gael Hedding, Berklee Abu Dhabi’s Director, said, “Berklee has a track record of creating unique environments where people of all nationalities and backgrounds come together to learn, grow and connect. At Berklee we share a love for music, teaching and transformation in the form of innovation and pushing the boundaries of human expression. My own experience as a Berklee alum has opened my mind and allowed me to connect with a vast network of extremely talented creators. I am thrilled to now be expanding our presence in UAE and leading this initiative with Mayssa Karaa and the Berklee team. Through our work at Berklee Abu Dhabi and our partnership with DCT Abu Dhabi, we look forward to offering new opportunities for students to explore their creative potential and supporting the next generation of talent.”

Mayssa Karaa, Berklee Abu Dhabi’s Artistic Director, said, “Since graduating from Berklee I’ve felt the urge to find a way to give talented artists from the region I grew up in access the Berklee experience. We’re now making it a reality and I’m delighted as I feel like I’m bringing my musical home of Berklee to my home in the Middle East.”

For its instructors, Berklee Abu Dhabi has recruited a diverse group of top level professionals from Berklee’s network of alumni and faculty from its Boston, New York and Valencia campuses.

Courses at the Abu Dhabi centre starting in March 2020 will include:

Innovative curriculum like DJ Skills and Music Production, taught by Emmy-winning composer, music producer and Executive Director of Berklee NYC Stephen Webber; Movement ExplorationJazz Movement PrinciplesJazz Contemporary and Classical Modern Lab, taught by dance faculty Ruka White from the Boston Conservatory at Berklee; Creative Entrepreneurship to Design Innovative Business Models, taught by Emilien Moyon, director of the Master of Arts in Global Music Business and Entertainment programme at Berklee’s Valencia Campus; and Middle Eastern Fusion Ensemble and String Orchestra, taught by prominent cellist from Bethlehem Naseem Alatrash.

In addition to the above courses, Berklee Abu Dhabi will offer programmes for children and students. Starting in March and taking place throughout the semester, Berklee Ignite will feature a series of events for young beginners in music, dance and theatre, aiming to engage the minds of children and young people ages 6-15 and inspire them to pursue the performing arts.

Berklee Abu Dhabi is also committed to delivering a regular schedule of public concerts and performances, with upcoming events including ‘Mishwar’, a unique East-West musical journey (29 February), Spanish Flamenco from sensational international quartet Las Migas (31 March), and a staging of the classic Shakespeare play A Comedy of Errors (10 April).

The establishment of Berklee Abu Dhabi furthers DCT Abu Dhabi’s mission to build and support a thriving cultural ecosystem in the emirate. The curriculum enhances Abu Dhabi’s thriving calendar of performing arts, currently taking place in spaces such as Manarat Al Saadiyat and the Cultural Foundation Theatre, and complements the work of the Bait Al Oud academy, which provides instruction in traditional Arabic instruments and music.

For Berklee Abu Dhabi’s full schedule of courses, and for registration, please visit the website at or email [email protected]

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