Three Grace School alums will receive the Alumni Award
at A Graceful Evening on March 18
On March 18, 2017, neurologist Ryan Uitti (’74) and musicians Dena (’86) and Amir (’91) ElSaffar will receive Grace School’s Alumni Award at A Graceful Evening, the annual dinner-auction benefit for the school.
Dr. Uitti, professor and consultant in the Department of Neurology at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, is an international expert on Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. He has had an active research career and has published more than 300 peer-reviewed manuscripts, book chapters, and editorials. Dr. Uitti served on the initial and current editorial board for the journal Parkinsonism & Related Disorders and also serves as Associate Editor for Neurology, a position he has held since 2006. The former chair of the Department of Neurology and Medical Director for Development at Mayo Clinic in Florida, he now serves as the Deputy Director of the Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, an activity which involves Mayo Clinic locations in Minnesota, Arizona and Florida.
Dena ElSaffar began learning the violin at Grace School with JoAnn Rehkopf as her teacher. She is of Iraqi and American heritage. At age 17, completely engaged in classical music, she accompanied her father to Baghdad and became enchanted by the music of Iraq and the Middle East. In 1993, while obtaining a classical music degree from Indiana University, she founded the group Salaam, a Middle Eastern music ensemble in which versatile musicians move effortlessly between Eastern and Western styles. The group has performed throughout the United States. Ms. ElSaffar plays the viola, violin, joza and kemanche and has played with Central Eurasian ensembles, salsa groups, bluegrass, blues and rock bands. She is the older sister of Amir ElSaffar, is married to percussionist Tim Moore, and is the mother of two: Jamil and Layla.
Trumpeter, santur player, vocalist, and composer Amir ElSaffar is a master of diverse musical traditions, combining Middle Eastern musical languages with jazz and other styles of contemporary music. His first musical experience was singing for worship here at Grace School. He is an expert trumpeter and played with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. He has traveled to the Middle East and Europe to study the modal Maqam tradition and currently leads four critically acclaimed ensembles: Two Rivers, which combines the musical languages and instrumentation of Iraqi Maqam and contemporary jazz; the Amir ElSaffar Quintet, performing ElSaffar’s microtonal compositions with standard jazz instrumentation; Safaafir, the only ensemble in the US performing and preserving the Iraqi Maqam in its traditional format; and The Alwan Ensemble, the resident ensemble of Alwan for the Arts in New York, where ElSaffar is the Music Curator. He has performed at the Newport Jazz Festival and at festivals throughout Europe, as well as in New York and Chicago. Recent recordings include Crisis (2015) with Two Rivers and Alchemy (2013) recorded with his Quintet. Listen online at www.amirelsaffar.com.