YerazArt Gala Raises Funds to Support Young Musicians in Armenia

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By Alin K. Gregorian

Mirror-Spectator Staff

LEXINGTON, Mass. — YerazArt held its annual gala fundraiser on November 17, at the home of Hrip and Charlie Minasian. The event, featuring dinner and an intimate concert with two YerazArt veterans, raised about $18,000.

Before the concert, YerazArt board president, Nicole Babikian Hajjar, spoke about YerazArt, its focus and the needs that the donations would address. She thanked co- founders Noubar Afeyan and Raffi Festekjian, both of whom were present, as well as the rest of the board, Sargis Karapetyan, Sylvie Zakarian, Avak Kahvejian, Anna Afeyan, Nina Festekjian, Seza Seraderian, Vahe Ghahraman, Apo Ashjian and Roset Atinizian. Festekjian and Afeyan founded YerazArt in 2006, she said, with “a mission to assist and promote young talented musicians from Armenia and offer them the opportunity to perform aboard. In the early days of the organization, the main focus was on selecting a few young talents and organizing a concert tour in North America. Over the years, however, our mission has evolved to better adapt to the changing needs of young musicians in Armenia and to better address the needs of classical music in Armenia.” Part of that change is that now, instead of bringing young performers here, YerazArt funds the music programs there.

This past year, she said, YerazArt distributed $12,000 through the Instrument Donation Program to three music schools in Armenia, one in rural Kapan, to the Kapan Arts College, and two to top schools in Yerevan, the Spendiaryan Music School and Tchaikovsky Music School.

“In Kapan, our initiative included a comprehensive donation ranging from trumpets and flutes to cello, violin, clarinet, synthesizer and guitar. In Yerevan, we donated much-needed oboes to Spendiaryan and Tchaikovsky Music Schools,” she said.

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In addition, she said, YerazArt this year supported four students at the Komitas Conservatory in Yerevan by giving them each an instrument for a total of $3,500. Also, financial support in the same amount was given to 10 students in Armenia. And finally, master classes were offered with visiting artists through the Yerevan International Music Festival and several top students were given the opportunity to participate in international competitions.

She also spoke about past recipients of support from YerazArt who have continued toward a successful path in music.

One, pianist Levon-Armen Manaseryan, who had received a scholarship from YerazArt at the Komitas Conservatory last year, had just won the special prize at the 12th International Piano Competition for Young Musicians in Germany this past  summer. Another, Diana Hakobyan, a violinist, recently won a major competition in Russia.

“We want to do even more to restore the place of classical music in Armenia,” she said. The performers at the fundraiser, 20-year-old pianist Nara Avetisyan, and 23-year-old cellist Vardan Gasparyan, played works by Bach

(Prelude from Cello Suite, Number 1), Babadjanian (Capriccio), Rachmaninoff (Cello Sonata), Komitas (Kroonk, The Crane) and Shostakovich (Cello Sonata).

Both performers were YerazArt fellows. Avetisyan, who participated in the YerazArt North American concert tour in 2007, is currently a student at the Cleveland Institute of Music under the guidance of Prof. Sergei Babayan. Gasparyan, who took part in the 2008 YerazArt concert tour, is studying at the Colburn School Conservatory in Los Angeles.

Avetisyan toured the US with YerazArt in 2007, while Gasparyan was part of the group in its 2008 tour.

Avetisyan has received support from the organization since 2007 for concerts, master classes and competitions. She also received YerazArt’s Anais Afeyan Scholarship. She took part in her first competition in Lithuania at age 7, where she took home three special prizes.

Gasparyan, who is studying with Ronald Leonard, debuted as a soloist at age 16 with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2011 he was awarded the first prize at the Fine Arts Club of Pasadena. He is scheduled to perform at Carnegie Hall on December 1.

At the conclusion of the program, Gasparyan, speaking for both of them, thanked those assembled and other donors for their support, noting that such support has brought to them opportunities they would not have had otherwise.

Guests were delighted with the young performers. Avedis Barmakian said, “It was a beautiful performance. The event got out a good representation of the community. The presence of people in such big numbers tonight shows that our people really care about music.”

Zakarian said she was happy with the program and the goals of the organization. “Now we’re doing a lot more. It is not only the foreign exposure but it is helping the next generation of artists in Armenia itself.”

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