Co-presented by: Joel and Maureen, '71, Benoliel, Donald and Lilyan, '08, Snow, Seattle Sephardic Network
and the University of Washington Sephardic Studies Program
Sunday, February 25, 2018
1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Student Center 160
International Ladino singer-songwriter Sarah Aroeste and University of Washington Sephardic Studies professor Devin Naar will discuss their innovative initiatives to transmit Sephardic culture and consciousness to contemporary audiences. Drawing upon Aroeste’s recently published bilingual (Ladino/English) children’s book Ora de Despertar (Time to Wake Up) (2017) and Naar’s Jewish Salonica: Between the Ottoman Empire and Modern Greece (2016), the two speakers will dialogue about their respective experiences interfacing with Sephardic faith, language, and community to offer visions for how Sephardic culture can be reimagined for today's world.
Sarah Aroeste, inspired by her family's Sephardic roots in Greece and Macedonia, has spent the last 15 years bringing her contemporary style of original and traditional Ladino music to audiences around the world.
American born and trained in classical opera as a teenager at Westminster Choir College and then at Yale University, Aroeste became drawn to her Sephardic musical past after spending a summer in 1997 performing at the Israel Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv. There, she studied with Nico Castel, one of the world’s great Ladino singers and coaches at the Metropolitan Opera. Training with Castel, Aroeste realized that Ladino, not opera, was her true musical passion and soon after made the leap to performing in Ladino full time. Since then, she has worked tirelessly to keep Ladino music alive for a new generation. Her style, whether with her original music or with interpreting Ladino folk repertoire, combines traditional Mediterranean Sephardic sounds with contemporary influences such as rock, pop, electronica, and jazz.
In 2008, Aroeste was a finalist in Israel’s prestigious “Festiladino” competition of original Ladino songs and, in 2014, an electronic version of her Gracia project (a tribute to 15th century Sephardic heroine Dona Gracia Naci) won the Sephardic Prize at the International Jewish Music Festival in Amsterdam. In 2016, she won a coveted Parents' Choice Award for her Ora de Despertar children's project.
Aroeste has released five recordings: A la Una: In the Beginning (2003), Puertas (2007), Gracia (2012), Ora de Despertar (2016), the first all-original Ladino children's album, and Together/Endjuntos (2017), the first bilingual Ladino/English holiday album. In 2017, she published her first book, Ora de Despertar (Time to Wake Up), a bilingual illustrated children's book. Emphasizing bright illustrations and simple and universal prose, it is meant to be an entry point for a wider audience to engage with the fun of Sephardic culture.
Devin E. Naar is the Isaac Alhadeff Professor in Sephardic Studies and Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and History at the University of Washington (UW). A Fulbright scholar to Greece, he received his PhD from Stanford University. His new book, Jewish Salonica: Between the Ottoman Empire and Modern Greece, won a 2016 National Jewish Book Award and the 2017 Keeley Prize for Best Book in Modern Greek Studies. Naar directs the UW’s new Sephardic Studies program and teaches courses on Jews, Christians, and Muslims; the Holocaust; Jewish history; Sephardic culture; migration; and empires and nationalism.