AramArt World Music and Art Institute

“Life is about love and good feeling,” Ehsan Matoori says. “Most of the careers and professions can’t bring these two things to your life. But as an artist, you can.” Ehsan brings together people of different cultures and ages to show them “the other side of life” – an artist’s life – at AramArt World Music and Art Institute in Plano.

At AramArt, Ehsan’s goal is not just to make musicians or theatre directors. Instead, he aims to make artists. By exposing his students to many art forms, he expects them to choose which one is best for them and create their own paths.

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A childrens’ art exhibit at AramArt World Music and Art Institute // photos Jennifer Shertzer

AramArt offers more than 20 classes in a variety of multicultural disciplines, including hip-hop dance, painting, pottery, photography, Persian musical instruments and the classics like guitar, piano and drums. Though anyone can take classes beginning at age 4, the most popular age groups are from 4 to 13. Most classes are private lessons, but several group classes in painting, dance and music are also offered. Ehsan teaches a teen group class with piano, flute and two Persian string instruments called kamancheh and tar. He also teaches the santoor, a Persian string instrument he started playing when he was 9.

Growing up in Iran, Ehsan didn’t have the opportunity to choose music as a primary career. His mom wanted him to be an engineer, while his dad hoped he would be a doctor. Like a lot of parents in Middle Eastern and East Asian cultures, they shared the view that music and art are pastimes and not professions, Ehsan explained. He completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in industrial engineering from Iran. He also pursued music throughout college, working as a music teacher on the side.

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AramArt’s founder and director of music and art, Ehsan Matoori (holding a santoor), with AramArt’s daf instructor, Nima Niktabe

For Ehsan, it’s not enough to teach music. He is looking to ultimately alter the mindset that says art cannot be a profession. Through his institute, he hopes to show parents what it really means to be an artist and, more importantly, that it isn’t wrong to be one. His vision is to turn this institute into a private or public music and art school. It will be based on a music and art major, with other classes on the side.

After coming to America in 2013, Ehsan got a master’s degree in composition from SMU. He has published five books – three with his own compositions and two with arrangements of other music. He can’t remember a time in his life where he wasn’t immersed in music in some way. When asked how playing music feels to him, he responds, “Have you ever fallen in love?” He is sharing his soul with his music, revealing his feelings and communicating without words.

He tries to recreate this passion at AramArt. The first class for new students is a game. After asking his students to close their eyes, Ehsan hands them a small drum toy and asks them what they see. They don’t see anything at first, but once they concentrate, they‘re able to see through touch. While they’re playing, they lose their self-consciousness and start to learn the meaning of music.

In painting classes, kids are asked to express their dreams and imaginations with lots of colors. If they struggle, they’re given a big piece of paper and encouraged to paint with their fingers, and to just believe in themselves. Sometimes they’re asked to bring white T-shirts so they can paint each other. “That helps them make friendships,” Ehsan says. The instructor, Marjaneh, introduces them to a new artist’s work in every class for inspiration.

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A taste of the classes that AramArt World Music and Art Institute offers // photos courtesy of AramArt

One 11-year-old student, Ryan, is working on a painting of birds that was inspired by a theater workshop AramArt held over the summer. He paints to tell a story and to capture a moment in time. He takes you to another place through his painting. Ryan has found a love for filmmaking after taking a workshop at AramArt. Slowly, he and the other students all escape to “the soft part of life,” as Ehsan describes it, and they start to see themselves as something more: As artists.

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AramArt instructors Ehsan Shafiee Zargar, Nima Niktabe and Banoo performing at October’s Downtown Plano Art & Wine Walk
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