Our Producer and Managing Director

Dawn Elder

Dawn Elder is an American entertainment magnate, celebrated music and media personality, composer, songwriter, record producer and founder of significant festivals and educational programs, which have helped to bridge cultural divides in the United States and abroad, as well as train the next generation of young artists. 

Having received numerous honors for her compositions and music productions, including being the first woman to receive the 2017 “Producer of the Year” Award from the Hollywood Music in Media Awards for her music production, “It Doesn’t Have to Rain Today”, she has staged and developed hundreds of multicultural events and global television broadcast specials, that have earned awards from the music, film, and entertainment industry.  She has been recognized and honored for her work by former President, Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the League of Arab States, the American Composers Forum, the Association of the Arts presenters, the National Recording Academy, and she has been featured on NPR, BBC, The World, PRI, Afropop, along with many other guest appearances on national and international networks. 

“Dawn Elder is one of the most influential producers of her time”.

In a cover story by the Los Angeles Times, titled “The World is Listening”, Elder was given critical acclaim for making a significant impact in world music, which bridged east-west relationships, through various initiatives she developed, creating impactful dialogue between communities in the United States and abroad.  Additionally, she has served before world leaders as a keynote speaker and guest artist at major cultural conferences and forums including, but not limited to, the World Global Forum on Multiculturalism in Urban Cities and for the 2012 “Arab Capital of Culture” Conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Elder has produced over one thousand events, concerts, network specials for ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, LBC, ART and ANA/MBC, and has worked with some of the most renowned artists in the entertainment industry including, but not limited to,  Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Sting, Carlos Santana, Enrique Eglesias, Woody Harrelson, Whoopi Goldbert, Phil Ramone, Don Was, Grover Washington, George Clinton and the Pfunk, Beachboys, Don Henley, the Eagles, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Paul Simon, Fela Kuti, SunnyAde, Crosby, Stills & Nash, international artists Fairuz, Simon Shaheen, Khaled,  Kadim Al Sahir, Wadi Al Safi, Sabbah Fakhri, Hassan Hakmoun, Bassam Saba, Amina, Voices of Afghanistan, Enzo Avitabile, Riffat Sultana.

Having developed and produced some of the largest cultural festivals and conferences in the United States and abroad, Elder notably includes among her memorable projects the founding of the International Friendship Festivals, One World Concert 2012 Carrier Dome with the Dalia Lama, the World Economic Forum, New York (2001),  Old Spanish Days Santa Barbara (1985-1996), Mawazine Festival (2010-2012) Rabat, Morocco, MasterPeace, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2015), TEAM Expo Teaching Entertainment, Santa Barbara (1991), International Women’s Conference (1997-1999), Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Project Teach, Tomorrow Teachers with the national music icons the Beach Boys (1990) , National Arab American Medical Association conference, Las Vegas, 2011, United Nations Amnesty International,  American Cancer Foundation gala (2002) Arab American Music, Arts, and Literary Awards Washington (1998), Desert Roses and Arabian Rhythms featuring Sting (2000-2002), founding the Peace through Music featuring Khaled and Santana (ongoing 2005-to present), When Music Matters for the Abu Dhabi Cultural Arts Festival(2015), and the Straight to the Heart Music Festival featuring aspiring new artists with established music icons (2017).

 Some of Elder’s more momentous occasions include the 2002 collaboration with Quincy Jones at the World Economic Forum in New York, We Are the Future in Rome, Italy where they introduced Middle Eastern artists into the mix of the event, along with world celebrity artists, in the wake of 911, collaborations with Sting and Cheb Mami on Desert Rose 2000, the 2004 collaboration for Khaled with R & B legends, Earth Wind & Fire, at Grammy Jams, setting up the first opportunity for a series of Arab Artists to perform at the Grammy Awards, including Cheb Mami, Simon Shaheen (Blue Flame 2001), Khaled (Ya Rai) , Hakim  (Lion of Egypt) 2002 and various touring dates for them all.  Not timid in her endeavors, Elder took on the challenge of breaking down barriers in 2003 when she toured as an Iraqi artist just a few weeks before the US-Iraq war.   Bridging Middle Eastern, North African, Latin, and western music through her recording and live performance work with Khaled & Santana in 2005 in the song entitled “Love to the People”, Elder re-emerged this body of work later in 2019 at the Greek Amphitheater for Earth Day. Founding the Peace through Music series, Elder toured 50 cities from the inception of the music series including directly after 9/11.  

In 2007 and 2008 Elder developed, recorded, toured and created the live presentation of the Sudanese Music & Dance Legends, reaching thousands globally, and documented, recorded 18 songs in 1999 for the Legendary singer, composer Mohammed Wardi, the last recording before his passing in 2012. Other notable productions include the National Arab-American Museum collector’s compilation, entitled “Love & Compassion”, featuring Kazem Al Sahir with Paula Cole and Karina Pasian, “Citizen of the World”, featuring Khaled, Lin Cheng, Sunny Ade, Kalash Kher and Flying Machines in 2010, and with Quincy Jones in Morocco, the recording of the charity song Bokra/Tomorrow featuring stars of the Arab world. In 2012-2013, Elder took on preserving the music of Afghanistan, by recording the legendary Afghan vocalist, Ustad Farida Mahwash, along with master musicians from Afghanistan, including Homayoun Sakhi and others, for a new album entitled “Voices of Afghanistan, Love Songs for Humanity”.  In 2013 Elder penned an Arabic adaptation of “White Rabbit” with writing partner and Algerian poet, Hanin Omar. The song was featured in the 10-time Golden Globe winning film, American Hustle.  The result has changed the landscape for Arabic music in Hollywood films by leaps and bounds.  The soundtrack and compilation, “American Hustle”, on Sony Classic, which included “White Rabbit- Arabic”, was nominated for the 57th Grammy Awards.  All of these recordings have received numerous awards and critical acclaim. NPR called the body of Elder’s work one of the most significant series of recordings and productions bridging our cultural divides in two decades.

In 2014, longtime collaborator Don Was, music producer and now president of Blue Note Records, requested Elder write an Arabic-English rendition to the classic song by Bob Seger, “Turn the Page”. The song went on to be performed and televised on Cable network by Don Was and his members from the original Silver Bullet band, with young Lebanese singer, Mayssa Karaa, as part of special program Was established in Detroit to benefit the National Arab American Museum. During the past year and half of the pandemic, this special aired again, featuring the song and performance. In 2015 Elder co-wrote a rock ballad entitled, “Over Again”, which she later recorded and produced for Karaa, along with several other songs for her EP album, then produced the entire live project to Abu Dhabi as part of ADACH programming for the spring of 2015.  

Over her career, Elder has also managed tours for some of the most highly regarded international music artists today, along with numerous American icons. Significant highlights for Elder include her assistance in the 2004 world-wide broadcast of “We Are the Future”, which was attended by over one million and produced by Quincy Jones in Rome, Italy, “Global Gumbo Allstars” in 2011 which features the leading celebrities from both the United States, and the Arab World including the legendary producer Quincy Jones and in 2012 the “One World Concert featuring the Daila Lama, with entrepreneur Sam Nappi and World Harmony productions. 

In 2015-2016 Elder launched two very important music education programs. The first, “When Music Matters”, debuted in Abu Dhabi, featuring all-star collaborations and educational outreach to young singers from the country. Later that year, Elder launched the “Ultimate Vocal Music Summit”, a highly focused 3-5-day summit for gifted young singer-songwriters, where young artists are given the opportunity to learn from the industry’s top experts. Young performers come from around the United States and Canada to train and perform with Grammy-winning musicians, as well as celebrity vocal and music coaches. Now expanding to international countries, the program pays it forward to young, talented artists, who have gone on to record albums, tour nationally, and perform on national networks including for drama, comedy and reality tv series including ABC Emergence, HBO MAX Sex in The City, NBC The Voice, ABC American Idol, NBC Little Big Shots, Country Music Awards, APAP, HMMA’s and American Protégé Carnegie Hall. 

Elder’s recent artist development and recording projects resulted in numerous high points in the past few years including for the winner of American Idol Laine Hardy, the highly acclaimed album she produced for entitled “Only Human” for Ty Waters, which she co-composed and won “” and “Producer of the Year” in 2017.  In 2018-2019 Elder produced several albums including the recently released album by French Lebanese recording Artist, Yara Lapidus, entitled “Just A Dream Away”, featuring a first time ever Arabic adaptation of John Lennon’s song “How”, into Arabic “Kif”.  The album and the single charted for 10 weeks,  landing #2 on the Billboard New Age Charts.  

Elder co-wrote, arranged and produced the upcoming album for the legendary Rai singer Khaled, entitled “Come Together -Acere Que Bola”.  the album is set to release in late 2021 or early 2022.  Right before the pandemic began, Elder also co-wrote, arranged and produced in 2020 a single entitled “You, Me, And My Purple Docs’” for the young, new star, Alexa Swinton, of new box office movie smash, OLD and who has recently been cast in Sex in The City.  Additionally, in 2020-2021, she has co-written, arranged, and produced for a young, talented singer-songwriter, Anna K Steiner, the pop hit singles, “No Regrets”, “Invisible”, and several more singles including “Back of My Mind” for her new EP album. “No Regrets” received great reviews in late August 2021.  Elder has also recently produced and co-written the title track for the debut EP album for 11-year-old, Armenian- American, Areni E, entitled “Stuck”, and for Hayden Williams Moran, star of the Dhar Mann movies, with over 22 million views, his new, self-titled EP, which features single, “Avila Beach”, and released in September of 2021.

In late 2021, Elder took on a new challenge in memory of her dear friend and collaborator, renowned Lebanese composer, musician and conductor Bassam Saba who passed in late 2020 from Covid-19.  She has been appointed by the board of “New York Arab Orchestra (NYAO) a nonprofit 501C3 organization founded by Saba in 2007, as the Managing Director/Producer/ First on her agenda, to record and produce a commemorative Album for the “NYAO” under the direction of their new Artistic Director Layth Sidiq. The album will feature Traditional-Fusion Contemporary original and legacy compositions of Arabic and North African Music.  The body of work will be recorded at one of the top Studios in New York, Cove City Sound, with the full orchestra and special guests. A video documentary will be made of the recording, explaining the sounds and meanings of each composition. Celebrity Guest Performers from the Arab World and North Africa will participate as well as guest appearances by some of the most renowned vocalists from around the world.  Elder will also produce in collaboration with Live Nation a historic concert for “NYAO” under the direction of Sidiq in 2022. She hopes to pick up and carry on the dream and mission of Saba for this national Orchestra. 

Elder, who is of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean heritage, grew up in San Francisco —one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world.  She is fluent in English, French, and Arabic.  She holds two bachelor’s degrees in science and in music composition from the University of California. Her educational background and multicultural heritage have certainly assisted her to create the perfect blend of cultures through her music, arts, and live productions. 

Elder is an active member in numerous humanitarian, non-for-profit organizations, and is a member of following industry consortiums: American Performing Arts Association (APAP), Pollstar, International Music Consortium, Broadcast Music International (BMI), National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) and is a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Sciences (NARIS), to name a few. 

Dawn’s knowledge, dedication, and love for multicultural arts and world music has led her to become one of the leading broadcast authorities and music producers for this growing genre in the film & entertainment industry. She has been instrumental in bringing numerous collaborations, with western artists, to fruition as well as the culture and music to the forefront of American audiences.  

Contact us

OUR OFFICE 265 W 37th Street Suite 203 New York, NY, 10018 info@nyarabicorchestra.org