past event

The Rumi Concert

The Aspen Institute and the Washington National Cathedral are thrilled to present the DC premiere of a new American tradition. Be prepared for a performance of unparalleled lyrical and spiritual power. The ecstatic writings of 13th century mystic Jelaluddin Rumi, one of the world’s most widely read poets, are brought to life by five world-class artists in an evening’s feast of poetry, humor, music, dance and story.

Enjoy the southern baritone of acclaimed poet and translator Coleman Barks, celebrated cellist and vocalist of Native American heritage Dawn Avery, four-time Grammy Award percussionist Glen Velez, virtuosic Turkish master musician and vocalist Omar Faruk Tekbilek, and mesmerizing world-renowned storydancer Zuleikha.

This performance is presented as a gift to our community.

  • 6:30pm doors open
  • 7:30pm performance begins
  • No intermission
  • All ages welcome


Admission is complimentary, but RSVP is required or call 202-537-2228 for the Washington National Cathedral box office. See event flyer here. 

About the Artists

COLEMAN BARKS was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and educated at the University of North Carolina and the University of California at Berkeley. He taught poetry and creative writing at the University of Georgia for thirty years. He is the best selling author of The Essential Rumi, The Soul of Rumi, Rumi: The Book of Love, The Drowned Book, and Rumi: The Big Red Book. Coleman has been a student of Sufism since 1977. His work with Rumi was the subject of an hour-long segment in Bill Moyers’s Language of Life series on PBS, and he is a featured poet and translator in Bill Moyers’s poetry special, “Fooling with Words.” Coleman Barks is the father of two grown children and the grandfather of five. He lives in Athens, Georgia where he focuses on writing, readings and performance.

ZULEIKHA is an international Storydancer, performer, musician and educator whose work inspires dynamic creativity and rejuvenation through movement. Zuleikha weaves together stories and myths of world cultures in praise of life. She creates CDs of original music based on the poetry of the mystics. Zuleikha’s collaborative work with world musicians and poets features such luminaries as poet Coleman Barks, poet Robert Bly, composer performer Terry Riley, world percussionist Glen Velez, cellist David Darling, vocalist and instrumentalist Jai Uttal, and other wonderful artists.

Renowned for her global humanitarian work, storydance performances, and innovative classes, Zuleikha is the Founder/Director of The Storydancer Project, a non-profit international artistic health resource organization’ that serves girls, women, children and families facing challenging life circumstances. Zuleikha is the recipient of a number of humanitarian awards for her outstanding work in the world promoting positive personal and social change.

Honored as a peacemaker and virtuoso, OMAR FARUK TEKBILEK’s music transcends political boundaries while maintaining traditional sensibilities. His music is rooted in tradition with the influence of contemporary sounds. The four corners of his creativity emanate mysticism, folklore, romance, and imagination. The musician and his music symbolize diversity-in-unity.

A musical prodigy born in Adana, Turkey to a musical family, he began on the kaval (diatonic flute), while studying religion with thoughts of becoming an Imam. Working in his Uncle’s music store, he eventually mastered the ney (bamboo flute), zurna (buzzing tone double-reed oboe-like instrument, the baglama (long-necked lute), the oud (classic lute), as well as percussion. At age twelve he began performing professionally at local hot spots.

In 1967 Tekbilek moved to Istanbul spending the decade as a session musician and exploring Arabesque, Turkish, and Western styles. He played with leading Turkish musicians of the day including Orhan Gencebay, flute and saxophone player Ismet Siral, percussionist Burhan Tonguc and singers Ahmet Sezgin, Nuri Sesiguzel, Mine Kosan and Huri Sapan. In Istanbul he met the Mevlevi Dervishes, the ancient Sufi order of Turkey. The head Neyzen (ney player), Aka Gunduz Kutbay, became a source of inspiration and Omar was influenced by the Sufi mystical fusion of sound and spirit. He was introduced to Hatha Yoga, Tai Chi and Chi Qong, which he continues to practice.

Tekbilek began touring Europe and Australia and at the age of 20 made his first tour of the United States in a Turkish classical/folk ensemble. While in the US he met his future wife, Suzan, and moved to upstate New York in 1976 to marry.

In New York he formed a band, the Sultans, with an Egyptian keyboardist, a Greek bouzouki player, and his brother-in-law on percussion. This Pan-Near-Eastern ensemble recorded five albums. Meeting Brian Keane in 1988, they would produce six recordings that launched the artist onto the world music scene. He has collaborated with jazz trumpeter Don Cherry, keyboard player Karl Berger, ex-Cream rock drummer Ginger Baker, Ofra Haza, Simon Shaheen, Hossam Ramzy, Glen Velez, Bill Laswell, Mike Mainieri, Peter Erskine, Trilok Gurtu, Jai Uttal, Yasmin Levy, Tomatito, Enrique Morente and Steve Shehan. He has contributed to film and TV scores and many world sacred music albums. Omar Faruk Tekbilek continues to tour internationally.

A four-time Grammy winner, GLEN VELEZ is the founding father of the modern frame drum movement and a legendary figure among musicians and audiences worldwide. Velez brought a new genre of drumming to the contemporary music scene by creating his own performance style inspired by years of percussion and frame drumming studies from various cultures. Velez’s virtuosic combinations of hand movements, finger techniques, along with his original compositional style, which incorporates stepping, drum language and Central Asian Overtone singing (split-tone singing), has opened new possibilities for musicians around the globe, resulting in a shift in modern percussion.

Velez is the first percussionist to gain international recognition as a successful solo artist using frame drums. In 1989, twentieth century composer John Cage wrote Composed Improvisation for One-Sided Drum with or without Jingles especially for Velez. His extensive array of frame drum innovations and sounds have inspired collaborations with Steve Reich, Paul Winter Consort, Suzanne Vega, Maya Beiser, Tan Dun, Pat Metheny, Israel Philharmonia, Brooklyn Philharmonia, Opera Orchestra of New York, Taipei Chinese Orchestra, Zakir Hussain, Sonny Fortune, New York City Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, David Darling, Howard Levy, Eugene Friesen and Coleman Barks. Live performances include those broadcast on Spanish National Radio 4, German Public Radio, Italian National Radio 3, Austrian Radio Freistadt. His Ta Ka Di Mi Duo with virtuoso Rhythm Vocalist Lori Cotler has garnered critical and audience acclaim around the world.

The Velez signature sound is heard on films, television commercials and modern dance scores. His collaborations in Early Music include two recordings with the Ensemble for Early Music entitled Istampita I and II. Glen has recorded on hundreds of albums on ECM, CBS, RCA, GRP, Warner Brothers, Deutsche Gramophone, Geffen, Nonesuch, Capital, CMP, Music of the World, Sounds True, Interworld, Ellipsis Arts, Daftof Records and Sony. Recordings of his own music include his most recent release Glen Velez Solo and Breathing Rhythms Duo – Glen Velez and Lori Cotler (Daftof records).


Grammy-nominated world music artist Dawn Avery creates a contemporary soundscape from electronica, pop and classical elements. Her sultry vocals and soaring cello lines reflect a deep spirituality rooted in her Native American heritage and love of Sufi tradition. Avery’s exploration of sacred music led her to study the relationship between music and spirituality. She has toured and recorded multi-media projects of spiritual downtempo music, including 50 Shades of Red and her upcoming Love Songs for a Changing World: Songs of a Mohawk Sufi.

Current performance projects range from musical theatre to world music recordings and performances. Avery most recently composed for the Off-Broadway production Ajijaackon Turtle Island produced by Heather Henson (IBEX Puppetry) of the Jim Henson legacy, for which the recorded music Crane on Earth, in Sky: A Journey won two Global Music Awards.

Additionally, she has toured the world playing Delta Blues with the Soldier String Quartet and Persian Sufi Funk with Sussan Deyhim. Earlier in her career she performed with the New Jersey Symphony and New York City Opera, and played for Broadway musicals. Avery has worked with musical luminaries Luciano Pavarotti, Sting, Phillip Glass, John Cage, John Cale, R. Carlos Nakai, David Darling and Glen Velez. She performed with Jazz Master Will Calhoun and Grover Washington, Jr., and with Indian/American Karsh Kale.

A prolific composer and active performer, Avery is also an award-winning educator and runs a world music program and festival at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland. She holds a bachelor of music degree from the Manhattan School of Music, an MFA from New York University and a PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Event information
Thu Mar 15, 2018
7:30pm - 9:00pm EDT
The Washington National Cathedral
3101 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC