Young Clarinetist from Gumri Makes Strides In New York

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By Aram Arkun
Mirror-Spectator Staff

NEW YORK — Narek Arutyunyan, a gifted 18-year-old clarinetist, is a long way away from his hometown.

Arutyunyan, born in Gumri, came here this summer to perfect his skills. He is studying at Queens College in a master class with Charles Neidich, the noted clarinetist and conductor.

Arutyunyan’s father, Karen Arutyunyan, is himself a clarinetist who performs Armenian jazz and popular Armenian music.

Narek Arutyunyan explained that “as a result, I liked the clarinet a lot as a young child, and always wanted to learn it. My family also thought about teaching me the saxophone, but I insisted on the clarinet.”

In preparation, Arutyunyan began to play the shvi, an Armenian woodwind instrument, at the age of 7. After a few years, he began learning the clarinet.

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Arutyunyan’s family had moved to Russia when he was 3, and by the time Narek Arutyunyan was 11, he was accepted to the Central Music School of the Tchaikovsky Moscow State Conservatory. He studied there from 2003 to 2009, and during the following year, in Evgeny Petrov’s class at the conservatory.

At age 12, he won his first music competition, receiving the grand prize of the Rotary Club Moscow International Music Children Competition. He quickly began winning many more competitions and has since given many recitals in prestigious halls internationally, including the Louvre Auditorium (Paris), Palazzo del Principe (Genoa), Kaliningrad Philharmonic Hall, Glenn Gould Studio (Toronto) and Chamber Hall of the Moscow Philharmonic Society.

He has performed with illustrious conductors such as Vladimir Fedoseyev, Vladimir Spivakov, Yuri Bashmet, Saulius Sondeckis, Misha Rakhlevskiy, Alexander Rudin and Alexander Apolin (Czech Republic).

Spivakov gave him a Buffet RC “Prestige” clarinet as a personal gift in Moscow in 2007, and this is the instrument that Arutyunyan now plays.

Arutyunyan first came to New York City in 2008 in order to perform at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall after winning the Guzik Foundation Award that year, which in addition to scholarship funds, provides international performance and recording opportunities. Constantine Orbelian’s Cultural Exchange Foundation was a cosponsor of the concert.

The Guzik Foundation is also the sponsor of Arutyunyan’s studies at Queens College.

Most recently, in November of this year, Arutyunyan won first prize at the Young Concert Artists’ International Auditions in New York City, and this will provide him with management services, career guidance and more recital opportunities.

Arutyunyan revealed his performance preferences: “I like Armenian folk and jazz music but I also always wanted to play classical. The most important thing is to play interestingly for the audience and not to bore it. I choose repertoires which are not too professional, but accessible to listeners. Thus, I play according to the nature of the audience.”

He feels there is a great difference between Russian and American clarinet schools. The Russian school is in line with the European approach: “It is more formal and serious — more classical. Here in the US, it is freer. You can play more freely and playfully. You can improvise a little more in your own fashion, though without changing the actual notes. I prefer this approach much more.”

While Arutyunyan is alone in New York, his father now lives in the US, too. Karen Arutyunyan works in Los Angeles and performs at Armenian events and weddings. Narek Arutyunyan proudly mentioned that another family member is well known. His first cousin, Khachatur Adumyan, was former Armenian President Robert Kocharian’s translator, and translated for noted public figures such as Prince Charles and former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Narek Arutyunyan’s role model is Benny Goodman. He declared: “I want to be like him — an Armenian version of Benny Goodman. I want to follow his path and do everything to make Armenians proud.”

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