Stephen Kurkjian Headlines June 4 Mirror-Spectator Banquet in NJ

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Keynote speaker Stephen Kurkjian

By Aram Arkun
Mirror-Spectator Staff

TEANECK, N.J. — Last week, information about three speakers, Peter Sourian, Florence Avakian and Nerses Babayan, each of whom will speak of an intellectual from the New York area supportive of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator in the past, respectively, Jack Antreassian, Dr. Movses Housepian and Armine Dikijian, was given. This week’s article on the June 4 New Jersey Mirror-Spectator banquet focuses on the keynote speaker, Stephen Kurkjian, and provides additional information on the musicians performing as part of the program.

Kurkjian is one of the most prominent journalists the Armenian-American community has produced. As an investigative reporter and editor for the Boston Globe for more than 39 years, he has won three Pulitzer Prizes as well as more than 25 regional and national awards. Exposure to government corruption while growing up in the Boston area motivated him to uncover any number of scandals, including abuse by Catholic clergy in the Boston Archdiocese, problems with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and misdeeds in the city of Somerville near Boston. Kurkjian was one of the founders of the Globe’s Spotlight Team, and served from 1979 to 1986 as its chief. The team today continues to work in his tradition of investigative reporting.

Kurkjian went on to become the head of the Globe’s 10-man Washington bureau from 1986 to 1991. He reported on the White House, the Justice Department, the Iran-Contra affair and the Gulf War. He then returned to Boston to continue covering local news.

Kurkjian, a graduate of Boston Latin School, Boston University and Suffolk University Law School, took a buyout from the Globe in 2007. Afterwards, he began writing for the Dorchester Reporter, taught a course at Suffolk University and began work on several new local investigative projects. He is also writing a book about the 1990 art heist at the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, which to this day remains the largest art theft in the world. It is an unsolved puzzle, with all 13 works of art, pieces by major artists like Rembrandt, Degas and Manet, still missing.

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Kurkjian has always maintained an interest in Armenian affairs. Despite all his prizes, he feels his most successful article was “Roots of Sorrow,” published in the Globe in 1993 about his traveling with his father to their ancestral village of Kghi. Kurkjian felt the trip “had a haunting effect on me. It awakened a need to learn more about the massacres, how they happened, and why the world community, the Turks and even the Armenians allowed them to go unpublicized and unaddressed for so many years.”

Kurkjian was able to cover the funeral of assassinated Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink in 2007, before retiring from the Globe. He returned one more time to interview the Dink family and write about the ongoing abortive Turkish state investigation and judicial proceedings in the Armenian General Benevolent Union magazine in April of the same year.

For the last six years, Kurkjian has been doggedly working on an even more complicated Armenian project: he is authenticating and explicating a photograph taken in 1915, before the hanging of a group of Armenian men in Kayseri.

Kurkjian is a strong supporter of the Mirror-Spectator who has spoken at previous events for the newspaper. He occasionally gives lectures in the Armenian community and is a member of the board of directors of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR).

Musical Program

Elizabeth Kalfayan, violoncellist and director of the New Horizon Symphony Orchestra, was born in Romania. She has performed with the Orchestra of St. Peter by the Sea, the Baroque Music Ensemble, the Metropolitan Lyric Opera, the New Jersey Pops Orchestra, the Opera at Florham, the State Repertory Opera Company and as a soloist with the Hawthorne Chamber Orchestra. She has also appeared with k.d. Lang, Ray Charles, Anne Murray, Smokey Robinson, Cindy Lauper and Bernadette Peters, The Doors and the Neo-Bass Ensemble with jazz artist Lisle Atkinson. Kalfayan is co-founder of the Encore String Quartet, Melody Arts Trio and the Harmonia Chamber Players. As an educator, she was director of strings for the River Dell School District, in New Jersey, and created and taught an educational music program for children with special needs. See www.elizabethkalfayan.com for more information.

Performing with Kalfayan will be Orlando Wells. He attended the State University of New York at Purchase as a double major on violin and viola. Among the many ensembles he has played with are the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, St. Lukes Chamber Orchestra and Radio City Christmas Spectacular orchestra. Wells has performed and recorded with major artists such as Mariah Carey, John Legend, Rihanna, Harry Connick Jr., Dionne Warwick and Elvis Costello, and has performed with some of the greatest shows on Broadway. Currently, he is the violist of the critically acclaimed Sweet Plantain String Quartet and the principal violinist of the New Horizon Orchestra.

Datevik, whose biography has already been given in a prior article in this series, has appeared at Lincoln Center, Town Hall, Carnegie Recital Hall, Knitting Factory and in most major New York clubs, as well as the Charles Hotel and Night Stage (Boston), Sands Hotel (Atlantic City), Tacoma Station Tavern (Washington-DC), Shrine Auditorium as well as the Alex Theatre and Stars Theatre (Los Angeles), among other venues.

She has given special performances or interviews, among others, on the “MacNeil Lehrer News Hour” (PBS), “Jazz Central” BET Cable TV, Public Radio International on World’s Global Hit, Voice of America, the worldwide live TV tribute to Willis Conover and live TV broadcast of the Russia-Japan Jazz Summit.

Datevik is also a choral director and voice teacher, teaching students of all ages and levels, and has given workshops and master classes at the Manhattan School of Music and the New School of Music in New York.

Performing with Datevik will be jazz pianist Bob Albanese, bass player Phil Palombi and drummer David Meade. Equally at home in jazz, Latin, pop and theatrical musical settings, Albanese has worked with a wide variety of artists, including Anita O’Day, Buddy Rich, Warne Marsh, Rita Moreno, Herb Ohta, Leslie Uggums, Daphne Rubin Vega, Bill Watrous, Cab Calloway, Freddie Hubbard and Branford Marsalis.

The Grammy-Award-winning Palombi is, according to Steely Dan tenor saxophonist and jazz musician Walt Weiskopf, “one of the most sought-after young bass players,” and has performed or recorded with Michael Brecker, Billy Hart, Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman, Etta Jones, Maynard Ferguson, Chris Potter, Rich Perry, Curtis Stigers, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Lew Tabackin, Chucho Valdes, Mark Turner, Eliot Zigmund and The Village Vanguard Orchestra. He teaches at the Eastman School of Music and elsewhere.

Meade has performed with Aretha Franklin, the Mamas and the Papas (1994) Australian tour, the 2000 Bobby McFerrin Emergency Exit USA tour, at Rockefeller Center’s Rainbow Room with Maricio Smith and Robert Albanese, Lincoln Cneter, Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, Aspen Jazz Festival and the Monterey Jazz Festival. In 2003 he traveled for the US State Department as a “Jazz Ambassador” performing in eight different European countries. He has been warmly received in Armenia together with Datevik, and praised for his understanding and feel for Armenian music. Currently, he teaches master classes at New York University.

The June 4 banquet, hosted by the Tekeyan Cultural Association and the Friends of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator, will take place at the Teaneck Marriott at Glenpoint (100 Frank W. Burr Boulevard). Donations, at $125 per person, are welcomed. For tickets, call Shoghig at (201) 803-0240, Sirvart at (201) 739-7775, or Shemavon at (718) 344-7489.