Zangakner at the May 6 show

Zangakner Gives Voice to Boston-Area Children

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By Mark Antranig Arkun
Special to the Mirror-Spectator

LYNNFIELD, Mass. — At the Zangakner Performing Arts Ensemble, not everyone is fluent in Armenian. Some cannot read, some cannot speak, and some do not know the language at all. Fortunately, Hasmik Konjoyan, the director, provides lyrics transliterated into English as well as spoken translations for the ease of the members who have a better knowledge of English than Armenian.

Ani Belorian with Hasmik Konjoyan

When I joined two years ago, I did not know anyone and I could not read Armenian quickly enough to sing in this language. However, Mrs. Konjoyan felt I was a good singer and did her best to make sure I always knew the lyrics.

We first met at the Erebuni School, held in a Protestant American church in Belmont, and intended for children to learn Armenian on Saturdays. Due to my level of Armenian, I was placed in the first grade. All the children I learnt Armenian with were many years younger than me. I knew no one at first, but soon I got to know my classmates. Mrs. Konjoyan was the singing director for Erebuni and had each class for around thirty minutes. For a few class periods, Mrs. Konjoyan acted as a substitute for my teacher and got to know me a bit better.

Before my second year of Erebuni, the school switched to the St. James Church nearby. To my dismay, I was held after school to practice singing. Hasmik saw something in me that was shared with the other members of Zangakner: a talent for singing.

Soon after I began my after-school singing practice, I met the other members of Zangakner. Ani Belorian, Sona Hakobyan and Sophia Goulopoulos introduced themselves to me, along with the only other boy — Danny Petetski. Over time, I got to know them better, seeing them at practices on Wednesdays as well as sometimes on Saturdays. Usually, Saturdays were reserved for private practices, to make up for any missed Wednesdays.

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In addition to the aforementioned group, my brother Raffi Arkun, Sevana Stepanian, Leila Belubekian, Arpi Mirzabegian, Milena Jabaghyan and Maral Abrahamian. Last year, Vahe Ayrapetyan joined Zangakner, bringing another boy into the older group, and a new friend.

The Zangakner Performing Arts Ensemble has had two main concerts during my time with it, as well as performances at other events. I was the master of ceremonies as well as a singer for both of these main concerts. As of May 2017, there were 49 children in Zangakner.

Ani Belorian, 13, has been in Zangakner for six years. Throughout her experience at Zangakner, she has performed at a considerable number of concerts, to the point where she cannot count them all. In a way that is similar to how I met Mrs. Konjoyan, Ani met our musical director at St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School, where she participated in the drama club. At St. Stephen’s, Ani had learnt a lot of Armenian songs so she had prior knowledge to bring with her. Her mother befriended Mrs. Konjoyan and learned about her new group Zangakner. Ani’s love of singing and being on stage meant she was perfect for Zangakner. Mrs. Konjoyan noticed that Ani was very engaged in the songs and saw her passion for singing, so she made Ani Junior Assistant Conductor. Ani says about the Zangakner performance at St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral in New York City that “It was the most memorable [of all] because we were not performing at a place that we knew. It was New York and we had never performed in any other state other than Massachusetts. We were spreading our popularity and it meant a lot that other people got to know about us too.”

My brother, Raffi Arkun, told me something very interesting. He confided to me, “At practices, if you ever mess up no one will tease you about not knowing the lyrics. In fact, the other singers do the opposite; they try to help you learn the lyrics.”

He went on to talk about how strongly he felt about Armenia, and that he felt he actually was there through his singing and experiences in Zangakner. Zangakner has not only helped Raffi and I extend friendships with others, but has also strengthened our brotherly bond. Furthermore, Raffi was able to overcome his stage fright through appearing in Zangakner concerts with the help of friendly and supportive people.

I strongly recommend participating in Zangakner for any student who wants to make great Armenian friends while learning how to sing and appear in public. See www.facebook.com/Zangakner for more information.

(Mark Antranig Arkun is a 14-year-old Lynnfield High School student.)

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