In the photo: Denise Abbas
conducting children program with the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra -
Denise Abbas has been such a helpful daily presence in guiding 4 Corners Project along that it isn't until we replay "Blesseth Be the Child" and again experience her amazing vocal performance and that we remember the creative treasure in out midst. This work, with lyrics in both English and Syriac, draws upon her range, intonation, and ear for the lyric poetry of each language. Syriac itself is primarily an ecclesiastical language used in the Maronite Catholic Church, her ancestral spiritual home. Ms. Abbas sense of lyricism takes a more kinetic form as she conducts the children's choir in "My Africa". Here her ability to connect with students shows forth in the way she elicits their ever growing range and expressiveness.
Denise is an energetic music educator in the Youngstown School District, not only leading school performances by her classes, but also bridging between schools. As a cooperative leader in the "All-City" Choral Festival, she colaborates with Elementary through High School choirs from all over the city to perform thematic shows for the public.
Recently her aggressive and creative leadership reached a new level of collaboration, inspiring confidence in professional producers and performers, and bringing her 2nd grade/3rd grade choir to perform with the Youngstown Symphony.
Ms Abbas is, by inclination and training, a mezzo-soprano vocalist, conductor and pianist/composer. She is accomplished in composition and orchestration in Western and Middle Eastern musical traditions, which call for intonation on different scales and instruments. Her family is replete with singers, cantors, flutists, drummers and, well, tap dancers; performing in church services, weddings and special occasions. Much of her early musical training was in the liturgies of the Maronite Orthodox Church of her family. As her aptitude grew, she progressed from children's/youth choir to adult choir where, starting at age 18, she ultimately served as Director for 10 years. Denise earned BA in music education and BA in music performance degrees at Youngstown State University's Dana School of Music. She performed
for 5 years in the well-known "Dana Chorale", including as soloist, under the astute direction of Dr. Wade Rairdon. Her thespian spirit found play in one of the leads, Dinah, in Leonard Bernstein's, "Trouble In Tahiti" during her senior year.
For those whose only impression of Youngtown is a sense that it is the epitome of the "rust belt town", note should be made of the progress of the last 15 years. Youngtown has taken a very creative approach in shifting to the global economy, employing a lower density population model and developing advanced technologies to replace the underused mills of its past. This environment is in many ways a world itself, with much inherited wealth from a flourishing past and an innovative vision of the future - yet
undeniably serving many pockets of all to familiar urban poverty. Ms. Abbas' dedication and enthusiasm is one aspect of that sprit in making a new future. She has been nominated teacher of the year for her school more than once and has taken to deferring to others on further such nominations, noting that "We all have a calling, and we are all equally important." Her sense of collegiality was noted in our comment on her daily presence, one which serves the success of all in the 4 Corners Project.