Anne Elise Thomas Music


Anne Elise Thomas
Bedford, VA   24523



Anne Elise Thomas is a multi-instrumentalist, educator, writer and ethnomusicologist. Her experience with a broad range of cultures and musical genres informs her personal commitment to collaborative and inclusive arts learning. Anne Elise believes that participating in music and the arts increases collaboration, creativity, empathy and confidence, and she builds opportunities for participation into every program she presents.

An accomplished pianist since childhood, Anne Elise has studied and performed Arabic music for over 20 years, including two years’ residence in Jordan and Egypt. Her primary Arabic instrument is the qanun (pronounced “ka-noon”), a 78-stringed lap harp. She also sings and plays Arabic violin and frame drum, and demonstrates the `ud (11-stringed lute), nay (reed flute) and other percussion instruments. Anne Elise is a founding member of al-Hawanim, an all-female ensemble performing Arabic music, and has performed at venues in Boston, New York, Atlanta, Richmond, and other cities.

Anne Elise is the founder and director of Itraab, an Arabic music ensemble at Virginia Tech that is open to students, faculty and community members. She is a consultant and grant writer working with arts organizations and other non-profits, and also teaches music privately.

In addition to Arabic music, Anne Elise plays Irish fiddle and performs traditional Appalachian dance with the Hoorah Cloggers of Blacksburg, Virginia. She was previously employed as a violinist and harpsichordist in Colonial Williamsburg.

Educational Background/Training

BA, Music, College of William and Mary
MA, Ph.D., Ethnomusicology, Brown University

Music Performance:
Qanun study with Dr. George Sawa (Toronto, Canada), Saber `Abd el-Sattar (Cairo, Egypt), and Emile Haddad (Amman, Jordan)
Arabic violin study with Dr. Alfred Gamil (Cairo, Egypt) and Mohammed `Ali `Abbas (Amman, Jordan)
16 years study of classical piano with Caryl Conger, Doris Krebs, Sandra Vermeulen
Harpsichord study with Tom Marshall
Irish fiddle lessons with Philippe Varlet


$150/hour for classroom workshops
$350 per school assembly
$500/day residency fee
Travel/lodging may require additional cost.


I can adapt my presentation format for a variety of audiences (see descriptions below).


Academic Year

Educational Programs

School Programs
Marhaba! Welcome to Arabic Music!  A classroom performance or school-wide assembly that introduces instruments, sounds, and rhythms of traditional Arabic music. Can be adapted for elementary, middle, and high school audiences. (Larger assemblies may necessitate an additional performer at additional cost.)

Exploring Arabic Music Residency  A residency program of 3-6 one-hour sessions in which students learn about the instruments, scales, and rhythms of Arabic music, and learn to perform one or more of the following: Rhythm piece (on frame drums), Arabic songs, “Dabke” dance. Can include a culminating performance or other event.

Musical Prose: How to Write About Music  A 5-day residency for middle and high school students in which students learn musical vocabulary and concepts and write in response to musical prompts (live and recorded) representing different cultures. The final three days include time for writing and editing an essay about their favorite song and why, musically, it is so appealing to them.

Songwriting and Recording Groups of 4-6 students are mentored through the process of writing and recording their own original song. Students are guided through the stages of brainstorming lyrics, writing a hook, song structure, accompaniment and multi-track recording (if resources permit). Please contact the Teaching Artist directly to determine how this program would work with your students.

Community Programs

Yalla Bina! Let’s make music!  An interactive presentation for all ages in which participants learn about basic elements of Arabic music, and learn an Arabic song and/or dance. This presentation works well for festivals, libraries, senior centers or other community organizations.

Sounds of Enchantment: A Journey Through Arabic Music  An informative presentation about the elements of Arabic music as well as a discussion of the field of ethnomusicology and some of the cultural perceptions surrounding Arabic music and dance. Suitable for colleges, universities, and community events.


Additional Information