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MIT AMPS nominated for New England Emmy Award for 'Awakening'

The documentary centers on music commissioned by MIT Music to honor the Arab Spring
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Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square on Feb. 9, 2011, calling for democratic reforms.
Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square on Feb. 9, 2011, calling for democratic reforms.
Photo: Wikipedia

MIT’s Academic Media Production Services (AMPS) has been nominated for a New England Emmy Award for its impressive work on the music documentary "Awakening: Evoking the Arab Spring Through Music," which aired last year on WGBH Boston. 

The 30-minute documentary centered on the world premiere of “Awakening,” a piece by composer and MIT alumnus Jamshied Sharifi ’83. The music was performed by students in the MIT Wind Ensemble, led by Frederick E. Harris Jr., director of wind and jazz ensembles for MIT Music and Theater Arts.

Sharifi, born to an Iranian father and American mother, composed the piece in commemoration of the Arab Spring, the momentous wave of democratic uprisings that shook the Arab world in 2011. 

“I’ve seen a lot of our work delivered to the desktop via the web, but it was a thrill for me to be able to watch the broadcast on a big-screen TV,” says "Awakening" executive producer Lawrence Gallagher, who viewed the documentary in his home theater.

The Emmy Award shines a spotlight on a widely used campus service: AMPS films and broadcasts more than 2,000 events a year, from MIT's commencement to classroom lectures, and produces high-caliber documentary work. The skilled AMPS staff members possess expertise in broadcast media, equipping them well to communicate the compelling stories of MIT’s research, education, and outreach. “The work we get to do is as varied as the Institute is,” says Gallagher, director of MIT Video Production.

Collaboration was at the heart of the documentary’s success. “‘Awakening’ is a result of the convergence of talents from varied disciplines, like most things at MIT,” Gallagher says. The documentary team included Director Chris Boebel; Editor Jean Dunoyer; Technical Director Craig Milanesi; and Music Performance Director Bob Comiskey.

“To capture something like the Arab Spring in all its complexity — the good and the bad, the uncertainty, the pain and the promise — in a piece of music is really amazing,” says Boebel. The incredible story — of both the performance and the events that inspired it — made for an ideal documentary subject, he adds.

The documentary, which was first envisioned by Harris, was commissioned by MIT’s Visiting Artists Program and the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences' Music and Theater Arts Section, with generous support from Neil and Jane Pappalardo.

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