Mariela Shaker

Music for Peace

Mariela Shaker's Story

One of 18 Syrian students on Monmouth's campus during the 2014-15 academic year, Shaker previously studied at the University of Aleppo. Despite her prior schooling, she said, "I feel like it was here, in the United States, where I began my life." She stressed her gratitude to the U.S. government and to groups like the Syrian Community Network that eased her transition to life in her new country. Having received several offers from graduate schools and conservatories, she selected Chicago's DePaul University to pursue her master's degree in music.

"In Syria, we really are in need of musicians as much as we are in need of engineers and doctors. Music is what we need now in order to learn how to give, live and love without borders."

Shaker's home city of Aleppo has seen some of the most horrific fighting in the Syrian Civil War. "There are ambitious students there who have lost hope—lost everything," said Shaker. "Rebuilding the infrastructure is one thing that can be done with our hands. Rebuilding the humanity and deconstructing the antagonism from the minds of the people is another thing that should be done with our hearts."

One month after graduating from Monmouth, Shaker was featured in the "Performing Arts for Everyone" series on the Millennium Stage of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. She was asked to perform at the Kennedy Center by the United Nations as a featured highlight of that organization's work.

Tying it all together

"Mariela's story is one of great grace in the face of great adversity," said Monmouth College president Clarence Wyatt. "Her musical talent is exceptional, but her unshakable faith that good resides in us all is truly extraordinary. A woman of profound character and courage, Mariela reminds us that the humanity that unites us should outweigh all that seeks to divide us. Monmouth College is proud to have had a small role in the growth of this young woman, and grateful to call her one of our own."

  • 1600 Pennsylvania
    As part of her time in Washington, D.C., Shaker was honored at a White House reception as a "Champion of Change" for World Refugee Day.
  • Major player
    In addition to serving as the concertmaster of the Monmouth College Chamber Orchestra, Shaker was a member of the Knox-Galesburg Symphony Orchestra, a nearby civic orchestra.
In Syria, we really are in need of musicians as much as we are in need of engineers and doctors. Music is what we need now in order to learn how to give, live and love without borders.


Mariela Shaker ’15
Major: Music