Mariela Shaker is an accomplished Syrian violinist and award winning refugee advocate who survived the war in Syria by coming to the US to study music at Monmouth College in Illinois.

Prior to receiving the scholarship that allowed her to escape the perils of war, Mariela, without electricity or water and under constant bomb and mortar attacks, would hide away in internet cafes to apply to schools throughout the world. Mariela graduated from The University of Aleppo, where she studied business administration. She was also the youngest violin teacher at the Arabic Institute of Music, and risked death every day, commuting between her home and the institute to spread beauty and music in Aleppo. Unable to return back home, Mariela was granted asylum and permanent residency in the United States, where she now feels safe, but lives in constant fear for her family and friends who are surviving with the basic necessities of life in Aleppo, wondering if they will be alive tomorrow and if she will be reunited with them one day.

While in the US, Mariela received a second scholarship to pursue her master’s in music performance at DePaul University. She graduated in 2017 and now she is a violin faculty at Monmouth College. 

Today, Mariela travels far and wide to share her music and personal story, building bridges and raising awareness of the plight of the Syrian people and youth. She has presented and performed at the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, for members of Congress, and celebrities including Cate Blanchett, Ben Stiller, Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep. Mariela was honored at the White House as a Champion of Change by President Obama in 2015. She recently performed and spoke at the United Nations, UNHCR, International Rescue Committee, CARE, Beyond Boarders International Festival, Aspen Ideas Festival, MIT, Georgetown and Harvard University among many other places in London, Scotland, Geneva, Netherlands, UAE, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and all over the US.

Mariela is the Goodwill Peace Ambassador of World Council of Aramean and The Service Ambassador of Points of Light Organization. She has been profiled by The Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune, Woman’s Day, Buzz Feed and The Washington Post.

She is the 2018 recipient of the Spirit of Anne Frank Center’s first-ever Promisekeeper Award, which recognizes a young person who is living the legacy of Anne Frank by dedicating her passion and creative talents to raising awareness of social injustice and fostering peace among all people.

Mariela is passionate about speaking to audiences worldwide. With her story of survival, another like millions of refugees, Mariela stands for the motivation and empowering of young women. Especially Arabic women! With her music and her voice Mariela is bringing awareness to young girls all over the world, showing them that everything is possible!



“Mariela was FABULOUS! The girls and the faculty alike absolutely loved her and she was a definite inspiration to all.” – Linda Tonetti Dugan, Assembly Coordinator – The Ellis School

“The event was GREAT! Mariela was awesome, engaging, flexible, and the students LOVED her.” – Michele Marcks, Assistant Director of Student Affairs – Penn State New Kensington

“I loved the program/we all loved the program…Students who would snooze through a classical music concert were enthralled by someone who had a grand story to tell. And, of course, she played like an angel.” – Martin Miller, Academic Lecture Series Director – Blair Academy

“Mariela, you brought us to tears with the beauty of your music and purpose. We are in awe and can’t thank you enough for such a beautiful, heartfelt performance at our Conference in Detroit. I hope you will let us know how we can be helpful in your journey and look forward to keeping in touch. You inspired so many. Thank you!”  —Tracy Hoover, CEO Chair, Points of Light

“What a truly wonderful performance you gave at the Hands Up for Syria event on Monday 9 May. Everything about it was perfect: your excellent selection of pieces; your tremendous musicality; and your very well-chosen words. Every Syrian in the room was proud to be represented by you and every non-Syrian had in you a tremendous example of how cultured, educated, skilled and charming the Syrian people are. Thank you so much for helping to make the evening such a success.”  —Wafiq Said, Karim Rida Said Foundation

”I cannot thank you enough for your time and generosity on Monday night. The performance you gave was breathtaking and the stories you shared of your own experience as a refugee were an essential component to the evening’s success. Thank you for giving so generously of your time and talent.”  —Cate Blanchett

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