Launched in 2007 in memory of Arif Mardin (1932-2006), world-renowned producer/arranger and vice chairman of The American Turkish Society for many years, The Arif Mardin Fellowship is conducted in partnership with Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, where Mardin's successful music career began as the first recipient of the Quincy Jones Scholarship. The Arif Mardin Fellowship allows one student of Turkish descent or nationality to attend the 5-week Summer Performance Program at the Berklee College of Music. 

Mehmet Ali Şimaylı is one of our talented Arif Mardin fellows that attended this Program. He shared his experience and memories with ATS. 

Mehmet, you were an Arif Mardin Fellow in summer 2016 at Berklee College of Music. How did you hear about this program?

First of all, studying at Berklee was a big dream for me. So I started searching for opportunities to go there. I heard about the Arif Mardin Fellowship and the program from my friends who experienced it in the past years. The 5-week Summer Performance Program was a great chance to take the first step. At that time the application deadline had past, but this way I had a year to prepare my application more thoroughly. 

Can you tell us about your studies and your time in Boston?

I had an incredible time in Boston last summer. With the help of the legendary academic team of Berklee I had classes which completely broadened my musical vision and instrumental skills. Also, I was part of the Balkan/Middle Eastern ensemble with my Oud. Together with my musician friends, we gave a concert at the Berklee Performance Center by merging our cultural and musical knowledge. During the summer I became friends with musicians from all over the world who even came to Istanbul to visit me and the other Istanbul-based musicians. 

How did the program and the scholarship impact your life and work?

The 5-week Summer Performance Program and the honor of being awarded the Arif Mardin Fellowship by The American Turkish Society made me a more conscious musician and person. It gave me a motivational boost and it affected my musical works a lot. 

Do you think the grant brought you more recognition?

Being a musician in Istanbul is challenging. There are lots of great musicians in ?stanbul. From the ones who are recognized around the world to the ones who play at underground stages, I am learning things by playing with them. However, everyone has to have a distinctive feature for being recognized by the community. The Arif Mardin Fellowship gave me the necessary recognition that I need to follow my dream of becoming a full-fledged professional musician. 

What projects are you working on right now?

Besides the group projects with which I perform at local places and festivals, I am currently a student in a jazz certificate program which is a great place for me to study jazz, play with ensembles and practice drum set and piano, adhered to the tradition. I am also composing my own music where I try to merge the elements of jazz with the elements of my cultural heritage by making microtonal music, using unique instruments like fretless guitar, local stringed and percussion instruments. I hope I will be publishing them next year. 

What’s next for you?

Forecasting my future is a hard thing but I am trying to do the best I can about my musical career. As the next step, I want to study jazz composition and performance in a good music school. I am always searching for new musical ideas and topics. I believe that life will show me the right way to become a professional musician if I don't give up.


Check out Mehmet Ali’s mashup-cover video of two Turkish traditional folk songs here.


Interview by Funda Akın


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Join us for drinks and warm conversations at our Winter Gathering! 

Date: Wednesday, January 18, 2017 6 to 8pm

Location: Little Rascal, 163 Elizabeth St. New York

Click Here to RSVP 

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As The American Turkish Society, we are very proud to present you with high-quality events, such as our business and policy events. Our well-known, respected speakers from academia, politics and foreign relations give you insight that you can get nowhere else. With your help, we have been organizing great events that connect hundreds of supporters on both a personal and professional level. 

We not only provide you with top-notch policy and networking events. We also contribute to greater cultural understanding between the United States and Turkey through our distinct fellowships that support both young and established musicians. The Ahmet Ertegun Memorial Scholarship for talented musicians of Turkish descent at The Juilliard School in New York City continues Mr. Ertegun’s legacy of nurturing talented artists. The Arif Mardin Fellowship allows a student of Turkish descent or nationality to attend the five-week Summer Performance Program at the Berklee College of Music.

The Summer Residency Program at The School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York offers artists an opportunity to work intensively in a private studio and more. Each year SVA offers a special scholarship to Turkish artists that is supported by both ATS and SVA. 

Our ATS Moon and Stars Project grants support unique opportunities for Turkish artists, dancers, film makers and others to highlight the changing face of Turkish arts and culture, establishing a cultural interaction between the Unites States and Turkey. 

In addition, our Curriculum Development Grants program enhances American teachers’ and students’ knowledge and understanding of Turkey. Teachers are provided with the opportunity to develop special curricula to teach about Turkey, its history, arts and culture. Since 2010 we have supported over 50 teachers reaching out to more than 12,000 students.

Please help us to keep up our good work by donating to The Society or becoming a member. We need your support, your collaboration and participation to keep the ATS community together…now more than ever! Your contribution will go directly into our unique programs and support our artists and community. Thank you for supporting us! 

Your contributions are fully tax-deductible.


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With ATS as one of his sponsors, Önay Köse could change from an engineering career to his dream career as an operatic artist studying at The Juilliard School in New York. 

He completed his Artist Diploma in Opera Studies and Masters of Music in Opera as one of the The Ahmet Ertegun Memorial scholars for talented musicians of Turkish descent at The Juilliard School in May 2016. The scholarship, supported by ATS, continues Mr. Ertegun’s legacy of promoting talented artists while contributing to greater cultural understanding between the United States and Turkey.  

Here is his story…


Önay, you studied engineering at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara. How did you become an opera artist?

When I participated at the University exams in Turkey, I became eligible for studying engineering at this prestigous university. Even though I was already interested in opera, I decided that it would be better for me to finish my degree first. Besides, my family has a tradition of studying at the Middle East Technical University. 

In 2012, I won second prize at the Siemens Opera Competition in Istanbul and had the opportunity to participate in a six-week summer residency at the Mozarteum University of Salzburg in Austria. This gave me the courage to try my luck at an audition for The Juilliard School in New York, and they accepted me!


How did you hear about the school and the Ahmet Ertegun Memorial Scholarship that you received?

The Juilliard School is one of the most prestigous schools for Performing Arts, so I had already a great interest in pursuing my education there. The school worked together with The American Turkish Society to find and sponsor Turkish students through the Ahmet Ertegun Scholarship. 


Can you tell us about your studies at The Juilliard School? 

I had an incredible time in New York and at Juilliard, not only because of the program, but also because I had a lot to learn. There were many professional artists from around the world who have been in this field since their childhood. I did not have the experience that they had. I basically had to start from scratch, so I took extra lessons. This was very demanding for me, but at the same time very rewarding. Even as students we had to perform regularly in front of a real audience. This was new and very exciting to me. I could learn opera on the job!


How did the program and the scholarship impact your life and work?

My dreams came true! The experience in New York was a life-changing opportunity for me. All the performances and the education that I had at Juilliard made me a versatile artist and helped me to understand the opera world better. I had the opportunity to work with some of the best artists and musicians in the world, which was a huge benefit on a personal and professional level. The Ahmet Ertegun Scholarship was a door opener to The Juilliard School and having received such a prestigious scholarship has brought me more recognition and enhances my biography. 


What’s next for you?

I’m currently working at the Komische Oper in Berlin, Germany and I’m going to perform at the Oper Frankfurt in Germany as well. There are also plans to perform in San Antonio, Texas and Tulsa, Oklahoma in the US next season.


Turkish Bass Önay Köse recently completed his Master’s Degree and obtained his Artist Diploma in Opera Studies at the Juilliard School. He is now a member of Berlin's famed Komische Oper, where his roles include the Nightwatchman in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin, Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte and Pluto in the Monteverdi/Katz-Chernin version of Orpheus. Mr. Köse also makes his debut with Oper Frankfurt this season as Sparafucile in their new production of Rigoletto.

In March 2014, Önay Köse made his Alice Tully Hall debut in a Juilliard Vocal Arts Recital. He also appeared in a Young Artists Concert at the Salzburg Festival. In 2015 he made his Carnegie Hall Debut as the Bass soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the New York Youth Symphony. During past seasons, as part of his studies at the Juilliard School, he appeared as Pantalone in Le donne curiose, Priest/Badger in The Cunning Little Vixen, Bartolo in Le Nozze di Figaro, Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin and Le Roi in Cendrillon. Last season he was seen as Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte. Mr. Köse has also sung the Cappadocian in Salome with Opera San Antonio.

Interview by Funda Akin

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The Summer Residency Program at The School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York offers artists an opportunity to work intensively in a private studio, receive individual critiques from faculty, and attend weekly lectures given by guest artists, critics, and gallery directors. Each year SVA offers a special scholarship to Turkish artists that is supported by both The American Turkish Society and SVA.  


Ahmet Albayrak was a summer resident this year. He is a gifted artist whose work focuses on identity and memory that he draws from his family history. The American Turkish Society talked with him about his experience at SVA and how the residency influenced his work and personal life.


Ahmet, how did you hear about the Summer Residency Program?
I found the information on the internet and have been talking about it with friends for around 5 to 6 years. I applied twice and finally got a grant for the Summer 2016 Residency at The School of Visual Arts.  After a month of creative collaboration with other artists and curators I developed my exhibition “Anemotaxis”, which made its debut on June 29, 2016 at the SVA Chelsea Gallery. 


What is “Anemotaxis” about? How did you come up with the idea?
I’m working on some concepts and language forms that include reading cards or the first Turkish/Ottoman dictionary that I integrate into my paintings, photographs and video works. In my paintings there are some key elements related to curing, healing, purifying and catharsis based on my life and family history. For example, wind socks are indicating the direction of wind as a cathartic form. And “Anemotaxis” is a form of living and existence in these paintings. The term “Anemotaxis” describes an oriented movement in response to a current of air.  


What kind of project was in your application for the residency?
I submitted several acrylic paintings that represent my work about “Anemotaxis” as a project proposal. 


How did the program and your time in New York impact your life and work?
It affected me in many ways and it was more fruitfull than I had expected. Personally, I entered a very creative and productive period. I had many new ideas that I could turn into new projects. 

Since I am also an arts teacher at Kayseri Erciyes University Faculty of Fine Arts, I gained a lot of studio knowledge that I will be able to pass on to my art students. New York has a very open- minded arts community. Renowned art critic, Jerry Saltz, came to visit our residence and we had some talks with him. I will surely pass the many impressions and outcomes of group discussions on to my students, so that they learn as much as possible about contemporary arts. 


Do you think the grant brought you more recognition?
Absolutely! I received a lot of positive comments and I gained more recognition in the art scene in Turkey. I’m also expecting more feedback as time passes and as more people learn about my work.


What projects are you working on right now? 
Currently, I am working as an advisor to the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey and we are preparing a collection exhibition in Oman. I’m also writing an exhibition book. The title of the exhibition is ‘Infinity Time’. It includes the most famous Turkish artists and traditional Turkish artworks, such as Ebru, Hüsn’i Hat works and names like Erol Akyavas, Fikret Mualla, Burhan Dogançay, Adnan Çoker.


What’s next for you?
I’m working on the exhibition of the art that I created in New York. I’m planning those exhibitions in November, February and May 2017. In addition I’m working on a new theme based on my New York experience that include more abstract paintings; this could be called “Gravitaxis” for example...


Ahmet Albayrak, born in 1982, graduated from Erciyes University Faculty of Fine Arts-Painting 2003. He completed his master's degree in 2005 and  in 2008 a PhD at Marmara University Institute of Fine Arts - Painting. Albayrak who has lived and worked in Kayseri since 2009  received awards from ongoing activities organized in various cities and joined exhibitions in a number of museums and biennials. In addition to the Istanbul Modern, University of Cambridge and MMOMA (Moscow Museum of Modern Art) his work has been exhibited in many countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, France, South Korea, The Netherlands, Mexico and Russia. He is a former resident artist of Cite Internationale Des Arts, Paris. Currently, he is working on collection exhibitions and has been curator of the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey since 2015.




Interview by Funda Akin

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Notification: The Curriculum Development Grant is being revised at this time. Please check back shortly.

For further questions please contact: cdg@americanturkishsociety.org

Launched in Spring 2010, The American Turkish Society's Curriculum Development Grant Program aims to encourage the development of Turkey-related curriculum by offering funds to elementary and secondary school teachers in the U.S. to develop innovative curricula, projects, and other classroom activities about Turkey.

Grants range from between $250 to $2,500 and cover the costs of classroom materials, speakers, and other expenses incurred by the teacher. The amount of each grant is determined by the project's scope, the availability of total funds, and the number of projects selected through a competitive process. 

Once selected, grantees will be free to develop and teach their proposed projects without editorial input from The Society. They will, however, be required to participate in follow-up activities for evaluation purposes. All lesson plans, handout materials, and classroom activities that are developed through the Curriculum Development Grant Program must be shared with The Society, and will be made available online to other U.S. educators interested in teaching curriculum on Turkey. The most qualified curriculum development grantees will also have the opportunity to participate in exchange program trips to Health and Education Foundation (SEV) schools in Istanbul, Izmir or Tarsus to dialogue with teachers and students in Turkey and to attend teacher workshops in support of their curriculum development.

Required Grant Application Materials:

Please see the Curriculum Grant Development Application to learn more about the grants procedure & requirements once selected as well as the selection process for exchange program trips to Health and Education Foundation (SEV) schools in Turkey.

Health and Education Foundation (SEV), in Turkish "Saglik ve Egitim Vakfi,” is a partner organization of The American Turkish Society and the sponsor of the Curriculum Development Grant Program as well as the exchange trips organized for the benefit of selected Curriculum Development Grantee teachers. SEV was founded by the graduates of Üsküdar American Academy in Istanbul, American Collegiate institute in Izmir, and Tarsus American College in Tarsus, referred to as the "SEV American Schools," and Talas American Middle School in 1968. For more information concerning SEV and its affiliated institutions, see http://www.sev.org.tr/



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Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say performs Mozart’s sophisticated Piano Concerto No. 21 and his own Silk Road, an engrossing piano concerto inspired by folk music found along the ancient trade route from China to Europe. In the overture to La Scala di Seta, Rossini dishes out humor related to a silk ladder and its role in an operatic love triangle. Haydn’s Symphony No. 83 earned its nickname, “The Hen,” from its fits of lighthearted clucking. Watch!

The American Turkish Society is delighted to help promote this very special event. If you purchase tickets using the promotion code ATS25020, you will be helping to support The Society's arts and culture grants and fellowships which are open to both Turkish and Turkish American artists and students. Help us support and celebrate the artists of tomorrow while enjoying one of the 21st century's most extraordinary talents. Order your tickets today! 

When and Where?

Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 7PM

Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall



Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Fazil Say, Piano



ROSSINI: Overture to La Scala di Seta (The Silk Ladder)

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 21, K. 467

F. SAY: Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 4 “Silk Road”

HAYDN: Symphony No. 83, “La Poule” (The Hen)


Tickets start at $25


Ticket Sales:



Box Office at 57th Street & Seventh Avenue


Please remember to use the promotion code ATS25020! It will help us to keep supporting artists in their efforts to follow their passion!


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Please join us for our Autumn Gathering on Wednesday, November 2 at Pera Soho for a cash bar, light hors d'oeuvres, and warm conversation!

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Join us for a conversation with renowned experts on Turkey and the Middle East who will discuss Turkey's role in the current geo-political context. What can Turkey expect in the aftermath of a failed coup? What are the national and foreign policy challenges? How can Turkey cope with an ever growing stream of refugees? Our experts will weigh in on Turkey's strategic options given these uncertain times and challenges.

Update: We are pleased to announce that an additional panelist, Dr. Bulent Aliriza (Founding Director of The Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies), will be joining Ambassador Jeffrey and Professor Oppenheimer in a discussion of Turkey's critical role in the current geo-political context on Wednesday, October 19. Register now!


When: Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Registration: 5:30pm
Event: 6:00pm
Followed by a light reception
Where: Herrick, Feinstein LLP
2 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10016

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Event Date: 
Wednesday, August 3, 2016 - 6:00pm
Pera Soho
54 Thompson St (and Broome St), New York
Cash Bar
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