Music at the Rose Concert Series

Looking for great music?!  Look no further....

This January, Rose Center invites Lakeway residents to immerse themselves in the vibrant sounds of the Middle East with a Music at the Rose performance by Sawt al-Wadi, formerly known as the University of Tennessee Middle East Ensemble, directed by ensemble member, Dr. Lillie Gordon.  


The ensemble was formed by Dr. Lillie Gordon in 2016. She established the group to give students and community members the chance to get practical knowledge of and exposure to the music of the region and to bring that music to the Knoxville community. Dr. Gordon explains her motivation this way, “I think playing or hearing this music, let’s say a love song from Syria,  helps remind people of the humanity of the people who live in these areas, as they can sometimes be dehumanized in the American media.”  


When I ask her to share her thoughts on the group dynamics, Dr. Gordon offers, “In terms of group members, I love that we have people from throughout the campus and community in our group. We have members who work at ORNL, students studying engineering, music students, music faculty, international students pleased to find a place to play the music of their home country in town, etc”.  Dr. Gordon continues, “Another thing I’d say I’m proud of is the community we’ve created within the group itself. We’re open to members of all different identities and backgrounds, and I’ve tried to create a personally and musically safe space in the group. I think our audiences pick up on that inclusiveness.”  Joining Dr. Gordon for the January concert, are the following ensemble members, along with their instruments / role:


Abdullah Algamdi, ‘ud

Summer Awad, vocals

Kenneth Dale Disney, percussion

Lillie Gordon, violin, ‘ud, and vocals

Anna Helms, clarinet and saxophone

Dakota Johnson, cello, accordion, and vocals

J Miller, percussion

David Peeples, bass

Karim Sleiman, vocals

Emily Williams, violin


Since 2016, the group has performed at university and local events, including Knoxville Arabfest, the Rossini Festival, the Knoxville Community Thanksgiving, and the World Refugee Day celebration. Sawt al-Wadi has also been featured on WDVX and WUOT radio stations in Knoxville.  The Knoxville community has embraced the group and provides regular opportunities to play.  Knoxville’s Arabfest is a favorite event for the ensemble explains Dr. Gordon, “Every year at Arabfest, it is a joy to play for the Arab American community in Knoxville. Members of the community often sing along with us and dance to our music. One year, our set morphed into an engagement party for a community member, so we just kept playing!”


Regarding the January concert at Rose Center, Dr. Gordon describes the performance this way, “Our concert will definitely include a beloved, classic love song from 1955 Egyptian film that is also widely known in the Arab American community, a Turkish song about a neighborhood in Istanbul that also exists in many different versions throughout Southeastern Europe and the Middle East, a suite of beloved folk songs from Syria, and a contemporary Lebanese song popular at weddings.”   Dr. Gordon continues, “Audiences can expect to hear a combination of vocal and instrumental pieces from different countries and communities in the region. Our group features a combination of historic Arab instruments, such as the ‘ud(short-necked lute) and darabukkah (goblet-shaped drum), and European instruments such as the violin and accordion. Our repertoire includes everything from songs featured in classic movies to art pieces to contemporary popular songs. Some of our repertoire is intended for careful listening, while other pieces are vivacious and may even inspire our audience members to dance.”


Tickets for the concert are $10 in advance through 5 PM, January 23rd, then $12 at the door.  The concert will take place in Prater Hall with table seating.  Guests are permitted to bring their favorite beverages and delicious snacks.  Music at the Rose is generously supported by the Friends of Music at the Rose and a grant from the East Tennessee Foundation.   Additional sponsorship opportunities are available.   Inquiries should be directed to the Rose Center Business Office, 423-581-4330.

Rose Center music programs are made possible by the generous support of individuals and organizations in the Lakeway Area.  We could not do it without their support.  Thank you!

Friends of Music at the Rose

2019 Music at the Rose Sponsors & Media Partners

Rose Center is a non-profit organization and a Designated Agency of the Tennessee Arts Commission (TAC). The Center is located at 442 W. Second North St. in Morristown, TN. Rose Center receives major financial support from TAC and manages the Arts Builds Communities granting program, a program funded by the Tennessee General Assembly, for the
seven-county Lakeway area.


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