Published June 02, 2015

The Millennium Stage

Shaker to perform at the Kennedy Center on World Refugee Day, June 20
An artist whom the Monmouth College community has come to know and love will soon be featured on a national stage in Washington, D.C.
Mariela Shaker of Aleppo, Syria, who graduated in May shortly after performing her farewell violin recital on campus, will be featured in  the “Performing Arts for Everyone”  series on the Millennium Stage of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts at 6 p.m. Eastern time on June 20.
Featuring local, national and international talents in a year-round series of free performances, the Millennium Stage has been hailed as “a cultural institution within a cultural institution” by the Washington Post.
Shaker was asked to perform at the Kennedy Center by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as a featured highlight of that organization’s World Refugee Day. She will be accompanied by London-based Riyad Nicolas, who has been described by International Piano Magazine as “Syria’s leading young pianist.”
Shaker will be further honored at a June 25 White House reception as a “Champion of Change” for World Refugee Day. There, she will participate on a panel, where she will have the opportunity to talk about her work. Her biography and a blog post will be on the White House website soon.
Shaker’s home city of Aleppo has seen some of the most horrific fighting in the Syrian Civil War.
“There are ambitious students there who have lost hope – lost everything,” said Shaker of her native country, who was one of 18 Syrian students on Monmouth’s campus during the past academic year. “Rebuilding the infrastructure is just one thing that can be done with our hands, but rebuilding the humanity and deconstructing the antagonism from the minds of the people is another thing that should be done with our hearts.”
Music is one way to do that, she said.
“In Syria, we really are in need of musicians as much as we are in need of engineers and doctors,” Shaker added. “Music is what we need now in order to learn how to give, live and love without borders.”
“Mariela’s story is one of great grace in the face of great adversity,” said Monmouth College president Clarence R. Wyatt. “Her musical talent is exceptional, but her unshakable faith that good resides in us all is truly extraordinary. A woman of profound character and courage, Mariela reminds us that the humanity that unites us should outweigh all that seeks to divide us. Monmouth College is proud to have had a small role in the growth of this young woman, and grateful to call her one of our own.”
Shaker’s degree in music from Monmouth was her second undergraduate degree. She previously studied business administration at the University of Aleppo.
“I feel like it was here, in the United States, where I began my life,” said Shaker, who stressed her gratitude to the U.S. government for giving her asylum and to groups like the Syrian Community Network that have eased her transition to life in her new country. This fall, she will begin work on her master’s degree at DePaul University.
Shaker served as the concertmaster of the Monmouth College Chamber Orchestra, directed by Carolyn Suda, and was a member of the Knox-Galesburg Symphony Orchestra.
“She will continue to be an inspiration to all of our students and faculty for the next stage in her musical career,” said Suda.
A live online broadcast of Shaker’s performance will be available at
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