Our People - Polyphony
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Our People

Creating meaningful social change in one of the most volatile regions in the world calls for visionary leadership, innovative methods and a deep commitment to young people—qualities that define the people behind Polyphony.


Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar

Co-founder, Polyphony
Executive Director, Polyphony Education

A visionary champion for youth and community development and a gifted violinist, Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar has led and inspired people from all walks of life across Israel, Europe and the U.S. He performed with and was a spokesperson for the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra for a decade.


In 2006, Nabeel gave up his music career and returned to his hometown, the Arab-Israeli city of Nazareth, to answer the need he saw in the community for quality music programming. He founded and led the Barenboim-Said Conservatory there. As his efforts expanded, he co-founded Polyphony in 2012, and the Conservatory was renamed after the organization.


Having begun his violin studies at age eight, he graduated from Tel Aviv University in both physics and music, and completed his master’s at the Hochschule fur Musik, in Rostock, Germany.


For his groundbreaking work, Nabeel has been honored with the Yoko Ono Award for Courage in the Arts.

Craig Cogut

Chairman of the Board, Polyphony Foundation
Co-founder, Polyphony

Craig Cogut has spent a career building successful investment businesses. He founded Pegasus, a private equity fund, in 1996 and serves as its Chairman and President.  Through Craig’s leadership, Pegasus has focused increasingly on areas influenced by global resource scarcity and the need for resource efficiency, as well as on the growth in demands for human wellness. In 1990 Craig co-founded and was one of the original partners at Apollo Advisors L.P., a position he held for five years preceding the creation of Pegasus.


Craig is an active philanthropist in the fields of improving education, building civil society and championing environmental and health issues. In 2011, he and his wife, Deborah, founded Polyphony together with Nabeel Abboud Ashkar. In addition, Craig and Deborah helped establish The Cogut Center for the Humanities at Brown University where he served as a trustee for several terms. He currently serves as well as a board member for The McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University, for the R-20 Regions of Climate Action, for Six Senses (a luxury hotel and resort chain focused on sustainability and wellness), for Lighting Science Group (an LED company focused on using science to improve the health of humans and the planet)  and for PanTheryx (a medical nutrition company whose primary product, DiaResQ, was chosen by The Innovation Countdown 2030 as one of the top 30 lifesaving innovations with great promise to transform global health by 2030) and as a board member emeritus for the Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability. He is an alumnus of Brown University and Harvard Law School.


Deborah Cogut

Vice Chair of the Board, Polyphony Foundation
Co-founder, Polyphony

Deborah Cogut is a lawyer and civic leader involved in organizations focused on education and child advocacy. She currently serves as a member of the Children’s Defense Fund Board of Directors. Chair of the Children’s Defense Fund New York Advisory Council and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Children’s Hormone Foundation. She has also served as a volunteer for Project C.U.R.E. on medical aid missions to third world countries.


Previously, Deborah was an attorney with Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton LLP, Vice President at RKO Pictures and Associate Counsel at HBO in New York and Los Angeles. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania and as a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar from Columbia Law School.


Seth Novatt

Treasurer, Polyphony Foundation

Seth Novatt is the founder of the Adolf Busch Award. Prior to retiring in February of 2015, Seth worked in the financial industry for over thirty years in a variety of executive level positions. While working for Oppenheimer and Co., CIBC and Alliance Bernstein, Seth dealt with both Institutional and Private Clients, and served on several of the senior management committees of both CIBC and Oppenheimer. A lifelong devotee of the arts, Seth is also a serious amateur violinist and is now learning the trade of violin bow making at Salchow and Sons in NYC.


Seth has served on numerous boards and committees, including Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, MusicBridge, the Kaufmann Center for the Arts (92Y), the Crested Butte Music Festival, and the Morgan Library.


Seth has a B.A. from Clark University, and an M.B.A. from Columbia University. He also worked on a Masters of Musicology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Board of Directors

Polyphony Foundation

Craig Cogut
Pegasus Capital Advisors


Deborah Cogut


Seth Novatt


Timothy Jessell
Greenberg Traurig


Helen W. Nitkin
HB Nitkin


Terry Tamminen
Seventh Generation Advisors, Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation


Carlos Tome
Tarisio Auctions LLC

Board of Directors

Polyphony Foundation

Dr. Adi Francis, Chairman

Dr. Adi Francis serves as the Head of the Cardiology Services and Intensive Cardiac Care Unit at the Holy Family Hospital in Nazareth. He is also a member of the Israel Medical Association and Israel Heart Society. Dr. Francis received his M.D. from Hebrew University.


Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar, Executive Director


Nini Achinoam 

Nini Achinoam (also known as NOA) is Israel’s leading international singer and songwriter. She is also Israel’s first Good Will Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.


Bassila Bawardi

Dr. Bassila Bawardi is a senior lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and Oranim College, specializing in modern Arabic literature and literary genres in the nineteenth century. He is the author of The Lebanese-Phoenician Nationalist Movement: Literature, Language and Identity, 2016.


Hanna Gaifman

Dr. Hanna Gaifman is Director of the 92nd Street Y’s Tisch Center for the Arts in New York. She has a Master’s degree in Slavic Languages and Literature from Stanford University and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Hebrew University.


Hank Havassy

Dr. Hank Havassy is the co-founder and joint executive director of Eshhar. He earned a Master’s degree in Social Work from Bar-Ilan University and Ph.D. in Public Administration from the University of South California.


Singana Qassem

Dr. Singana Oassem is a well-respected family and geriatric doctor at the Maccabi Health Services in Nazareth, the second largest health maintenance organization in Israel. She studied medicine at Tel Aviv University and received her M.D. from the Medical University in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.


Nicki Thomas

Nicki Thomas is a public relations professional specializing in arts and music. She graduated from King’s College London.

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