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Mariela Shaker

Mariela Shaker

Fled Syria and found refuge on the stage

Mariela Shaker is an accomplished Syrian violinist and award winning refugees advocate who survived the war in Syria and the University of Aleppo attack in January 2013. She fled to the US to study music at Monmouth College with full tuition scholarship. To be able to secure this opportunity, Mariela, without electricity or water and under constant bomb and mortar attacks would hide away in internet cafes to apply to schools and programs throughout the world. She graduated from The University of Aleppo in 2013, where she studied Business Administration. During her study at the university, she was the youngest violin teacher at the Arabic Institute of Music. Mariela risked death every day, commuting between her home and the Institute to create beauty through her violin and inspire children to pursue their dreams.

Aleppo was besieged in July 2013 at the same time that Mariela managed to leave Syria to go to her new school in America. Her only options were either facing ominous destiny in Aleppo or taking a very dangerous bus ride from Aleppo to Beirut on an unused sandy road. She chose the latter. The trip lasted for 17 hours. The driver got lost several times in the demolished buildings. She passed 50 checkpoints of soldiers whom many of them thought her violin case was a gun and demanded her an extra security inspection. A couple of days after her arrival to the US, some of her friends were killed trying to take the same route. Being in USA since 2013 and unable to return back home, Mariela was granted asylum (refugee status) in the United States, where she 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.

More than another fascinating story of a refugee, Mariela, stands for drive and determination. And it didn't take long for this inspirational young woman together with her talent for music to make it to the flashlights and interest of the public and the politicians. Mariela was named a “Champion of Change” by President Barack Obama in 2015 and was appointed UNHCR High Profile Supporter in 2015. Since then she received many awards such as Anne Frank Honorary in 2018 and Points of Light Award in 2017. She performed at prestigious venues such as The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, United Nations, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard among many others. Mariela presented in Hong Kong, Netherlands, UK, Geneva, UAE and all over the US. Despite the challenges and hardship Mariela endured as her family lost their jobs in the war and couldn’t support her financially, after only four years in the US she was able to receive two degrees; a bachelor at Monmouth College and a Master at DePaul University with full tuition scholarships. She is a great example of refugees who not only survive but thrive. 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!

Her courageous story has been profiled by the Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Buzz Feed, Woman's Day and many others. Mariela is using her music to build bridges and promote peace and raise awareness for the plights of the Syrian people. What is remarkable about Mariela is that as a refugee, not only her music is heard, but her voice for refugees in need! Though her own family has no electricity and many times she is unable to have contact, she perseveres for this noble cause.

Speaking Topics
  • Mariela’s Life Story
  • Refugees are not a burden but an investment
  • Overcoming Change & Adversity

You can watch Mariela in action here.

Testimonials from Teachers

"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​

Speaker File


  • Creative
  • Careers
  • Assemblies and Celebrations Events
  • Well-being
  • Music
  • Exams

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