Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Event Slides Per Node 1415

  • A balding man holding a trumpet looks and leaning against an ornate metal railing looks intensely at the camera.
  • A group of jazz musicians holding their instruments stand on a stage overlooking an audience.

Amir ElSaffar
and the Two Rivers Ensemble
featuring Hamid Al-Saadi

7:30 pm Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Amir ElSaffar — trumpeter, santur (hammered dulcimer) player, vocalist, and composer — is a master of diverse sounds. The Chicago-area native has distinguished himself by combining Middle Eastern traditions with jazz and other styles of music. ElSaffar, who has a degree in classical trumpet from DePaul University, is fluent in the idiom of jazz, but he has also created techniques to play microtones and ornaments associated with Arabic music that are rarely heard on trumpet.

Two Rivers Ensemble, a sextet, combines the musical languages and instrumentation of Iraqi maqam and contemporary jazz. The ensemble’s music speaks the vernacular of swing, improvisation, and group interaction.

Through his powerful and highly ornamented voice, and in his comprehensive knowledge of the intricate details of the music and poetry of Iraq, generations and layers of the maqam tradition resonate through Hamid al-Saadi. He is one of the few vocalists who is keeping the art alive today, at a time when so many elements of the tradition are in danger of extinction. 

“Cyclical melodic cells and rhythmic complications took on another cast when deployed by Amir ElSaffar’s Two Rivers Ensemble …,” writes a reviewer for DownBeat. “This was certainly the first Middle Eastern-imbued jazz combo at Newport [Jazz Festival] to win a standing ovation for its first song.”

ticketmaster.com is a resale marketplace. Ticket prices may be above or below face value.

Adult $42
University Park Student $5
18 and Younger $26

Patricia Best and Thomas Ray
Charlotte Zmyslo

A grant from the University Park Student Fee Board makes Penn State student prices possible.

Artist Websites: 

Secondary Events on Each Event

Community Jam Session with Amir ElSaffar

7:00 pm Monday, April 3, 2023

3 Dots Downtown
137 E. Beaver Ave., State College

FREE and open to the public

Presented by the Center for the Performing Arts and 3 Dots Downtown

Join Amir ElSaffar — trumpeter, santur player, vocalist, and composer — for some hang time and music making one day before his concert at Eisenhower Auditorium. ElSaffar combines Middle Eastern traditions with jazz and other styles of music. Want to play in the jam session? Bring an instrument and join the fun.

Pre-Performance Discussion

6:30 pm Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Eisenhower Auditorium

An informal moderated discussion, featuring musician Amir ElSaffar, will be offered one hour before the show and is free for ticket holders. Seating for the pre-performance talk is available on a first-arrival basis.