Past Artist
Baryshnikov Arts Center Resident Artist

Amir ElSaffar

BAC Space Resident Artist

Musician/composer Amir ElSaffar’s (NYC) Rivers of Sound Orchestra consists of 17 musicians who create a new musical language transcending established notions of style and convention. Drawing on ancient microtonal modal practices, they will develop Sonoluminescence, ElSaffar’s second work for the ensemble, which includes Hamid Al-Saadi one of today’s few living vocal practitioners of the Iraqi Maqam.


Leadership support for BAC has been provided by Altman Foundation, Anonymous, James H. Duffy, The Enoch Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Kaye Foundation, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, Princess Grace Foundation-USA, Jerome Robbins Foundation, Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Fund, Thompson Family Foundation, and Dance/NYC’s New York City Dance Rehearsal Space Subsidy Program, made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


Lead support of dance programming at BAC is provided by the Rudolf Nureyev Endowment.


Amir ElSaffar
Artist Bio

Amir ElSaffar

Amir ElSaffar is an expert trumpeter with a classical background and is conversant in the language of contemporary jazz, while creating techniques to play microtones and ornaments idiomatic to Arabic music that are not typically heard on the trumpet.

Additionally, he is a purveyor of the centuries-old Iraqi Maqam tradition, which he performs actively as a vocalist and santur player. ElSaffar earned a bachelor’s degree in classical trumpet from DePaul University, while playing actively in Chicago’s jazz scene. ElSaffar founded Two Rivers in 2006, a six piece ensemble combining jazz with Maqam. He has released seven critically acclaimed albums and leads five ensembles, in addition to collaborating with musicians in the US, Europe, and the Middle East. He has composed for jazz ensembles, Middle Eastern ensembles, chamber orchestras, string quartets, and contemporary ensembles, in addition to dance and theater projects, receiving commissions from The Jazz Gallery, Berlin Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, the Flamenco Biennale (Netherlands), Metropolitan Museum of Art, and grants from The MAP Fund, Aaron Copland Fund, and Chamber Music America, among others, and received a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award in 2013 and a United States Artists Fellowship in 2018. ElSaffar is composer in residence of the transcultural program at the Fondation Royaumont in France, where he is creating three new works between 2017 and 2019.

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