Meet the Board


Bassam Saba, Co-founder, Artistic Director


Bassam Saba of Lebanon is a musical virtuoso, acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, educator and world renowned authority on Arabic music. Saba studied nay, oud and violin at the Lebanon National Conservatory, then continued on to receive his BA in Western Classical music and Flute Performance at the Conservatoire Municipal des Gobelins in Paris, and Masters in Western Flute Performance and Music Education from the Gnessin Musical Pedagogical Institute in Moscow. Regarded by the world as a true pioneer of the nay and Arabic interpretation of western flute, Saba was pursued by many of the greatest Arab, Western classical, and Western pop icons. Saba has toured extensively with Fairouz, Marcel Khalife, and Simon Shaheen, and has worked with other Arab greats such as Ziad Rahbani, Wadi’ El-Safi, Majida El-Roumi and Taoufiq Farroukh. He has collaborated with classical and pop stars such as Yo-Yo Ma, Sting, Alicia Keys and Santana, and jazz icons such as Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones. Saba’s present ensembles, projects and soloist features include Simon Shaheen’s Al-Qantara and Near Eastern Music Ensemble, Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, Daniel Schnyder’s Nay Concerto, and the Bassam Saba Ensemble. Saba has been invited to perform as a soloist by numerous renowned philharmonics throughout Germany, Switzerland, Middle East and the United States.


April Centrone, Co-founder, Executive Director


April Centrone is a performer, teacher and music therapist originally from New York and residing since January 2013 in Beirut, Lebanon. She holds a Masters in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College in New York City, taught graduate and undergraduate courses in Trauma and Forensic Psychology at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York and implemented a music therapy program Sagamore Children’s Psychiatric Hospital in Long Island, New York. Centrone studied classical Arabic music and riqq training under legend Michel Merhej Baklouk, as well as ‘ud and Arabic violin with Bassam Saba and Simon Shaheen. For two years, Centrone has been principle drummer and percussionist of Ziad Rahbani’s jazz band and large ensemble, as has performed with other great Lebanese artists including Marcel Khalife. Currently, Centrone leads a music education and therapy project called Juthoor or Project Roots Lebanon, largely serving youth of refugee camps and underprivileged zones, and leads music therapy and healing-through-drumming workshops in Beirut. She has produced events, lectured and/or performed in venues, universities and festivals such as Carnegie Hall, New York City Opera House, Berklee College of Music, Cleveland Institute of Music, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors (New York), Beirut Jazz Festival, New Zealand International Festival, Marciac Jazz Festival (FR), Taipei Chinese Orchestra Silk Road Conference and Festival Musico Mondo (FMM Sines, PT).


Mohannad Aama, Treasurer

Mohannad Aama is a founder and senior Portfolio Manager at Beam Capital Management – an investment and wealth management  firm. He has been a speaker at numerous asset management and investment conferences in the US and abroad and has made regular TV & print media appearances in numerous outlets in the US, Europe and the Middle East. Mohannad currently serves as a member of the Board, and Treasurer, at The Arab-American Family Support Center, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that provides culturally and linguistically sensitive services to immigrant communities throughout New York City. He is also a Fellow at the Foreign Policy Association. Previously, Mohannad was a Board member and Treasurer of the Arab Bankers Association of North America (ABANA) a not for profit association based in New York. Fluent in Arabic, Mr. Aama earned a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College in New York City and an MBA in Finance and Accounting from the Simon Graduate School of Business at the University of Rochester in New York State.


Liana Hawes, Secretary

Liana Hawes is Vice President, Media Relations at Gutenberg Communications. She is a public relations professional skilled in creating and executing strategic communications plans that build brand equity and market share for start-up and second stage companies and non-profit corporations. Liana directs communications with the goal of helping business and organizational development, securing funding rounds, grants and sponsorship. She has led public relations for campaigns for New York’s Williamsburg Bridge Centennial, New York’s Annual Village Halloween Parade, The Atlantic Antic 30th Anniversary, The Center for Traditional Music &and Dance, Brooklyn Arts Council Maqam Festival and Brooklyn Botanic Garden. She has successfully managed and booked The Vodou Jazz Ensemble. She previously served on the Board of Platform Shoes Forum, a non-profit organization. Liana did her graduate work in Media Ecology at NYU School of Education and received her BA in Speech from Emerson College in Boston.


Hanna Hanna, Secretary

Hanna Hanna is a serial entrepreneur and successful business leader. He is the proprietor of Bellydance America Inc., one of the leading global suppliers for Arabic music and dance professionals and a specialty retail destination located in the heart of Manhattan’s fashion district. Hanna has extensive experience in business operations and real-estate management. He is also a skilled musician and vocalist. With an extensive business network both in the U.S. and abroad, Hanna is internationally recognized as a dynamic visionary in the Arabic music industry.