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 Foundation
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 für Musik, in Rostock, Germany.


For his groundbreaking work, Nabeel has been honored with the Charles Ansbacher Music for All Award (2015), Yoko Ono Lennon Award Courage for the Arts (2012), and an Honorary Doctorate from Washington College (2012).

Craig Cogut

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

Craig Cogut has spent his 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 education, civil society and environmental and health issues. In addition to their work with Polyphony, Craig and Deborah helped establish The Cogut Center for the Humanities at Brown University. He also served as a trustee there for several terms.


Craig currently serves 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 managed divisions for both institutional and private clients, and also served on several of the senior management committees of both CIBC and Oppenheimer.


A lifelong devotee of the arts, Seth is a serious amateur violinist and is now learning the trade of violin bowmaking at Salchow and Sons in New York City. Seth is also a dedicated advocate of young musicians and, along with his wife,  hosts an informal home concert series where both emerging and established professionals enjoy the opportunity to perform for keen and enthusiastic audiences.


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.

Nancy Kasten


Rabbi Nancy Kasten is Chief Relationship Officer for Faith Commons, a multi-faith organization providing leadership, resources and support to strengthen faith communities and communities through faith. Ordained by the Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion in 1990, she served as Hillel Director, Associate Chaplain, and Adjunct Professor of Biblical Hebrew at SMU, Associate Director of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations Southwest Council, and Campus Rabbi and Head of Jewish Studies at the Wise Academy, a Reform Jewish Day School.


She is a community educator, volunteer and activist, as well as a certified Jewish Mindfulness Mediation Teacher. Rabbi Kasten has served on the governing boards or many nonprofit organizations, including the Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion, the Greenhill School, and the National Council of Jewish Women Dallas Section. In addition to the Polyphony board, she recently joined the Advisory Board of the Ackermann Center for Holocaust Studies at the University of Texas, Dallas. She is married to Rabbi David Stern and they have three children.

Board of Directors
Polyphony Foundation

United States

Craig Cogut
Pegasus Capital Advisors


Deborah Cogut


Barbara Cohn

Alisa Doctoroff


Timothy Jessell
Greenberg Traurig


Nancy Kasten


Seth Novatt

Polyphony Foundation

Erin Wright
Director, Polyphony Foundation


Board of Directors
Polyphony Education


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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