Levon Mikaelian

What Does USA Mean to Levon Mikaelian? 


By Haykaram Nahapetyan

Mirror-Spectator Video Correspondent

CHEVY CHASE, Md. – According to an online-dictionary of acronyms, USA stands for not only the name of the country but over 50 different names and notions, ranging from US Airways to Uninterrupted Sharing Activity. The dictionary should also be aware of United Shades of Artistry, a band that Armenian-American composer and musician Levon Mikaelian created in 2014.

“I was not going for the U.S.A. acronym specifically when I was creating a name for the band. It happened naturally. However, when it came out as U.S.A., I realized that this is what U.S.A. as a country is all about: its a melting pot of different shades of arts, cultures, and nationalities,” Levon explained.

Today the band is better known as the Levon Mikaelian Trio. With two other non-Armenian musicians, the trio plays overwhelmingly Armenian tunes, rearranging existing traditional tracks or composing new ones.

“I started studying music with my dad as a child. Then I went to the musical school named after Mirzoyan, then the Tchaikovsky school, and finally Yerevan’s conservatory,” said Levon, relating his background in Armenia when he hosted me at his musical school known as Make a Wave in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

His professional education in Armenia helped make finding a professional job in America possible. Levon became musical director of the Maryland Youth Ballet. Playing in an area with different bands and releasing CD’s marked his gradual career growth. He placed the arrangement and propagation of Armenian traditional music at the very core of his activities.

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How many times have readers heard the famous Armenian song Tesnem Anin u nor mernem? I bet quite a few. Did you know who composed the soundtrack? I did not, unfortunately. As I learned from our conversation with Levon, Majak Toshigian, the composer of this very famous track, a musician originally from Istanbul, lived in Canada from the 1980s. Mikaelian contacted Toshigian, seeking permission to rearrange this well known piece music for his new album. The consent was granted.

“Untainted,” the new album which came out this year, included a rearrangement of Ani and many other traditional songs. “There are folk songs that I heard growing up and some of them have no specific composer. I tried to stay as close to the original as possible but at the same time I had to express myself in changing it around a little bit,” Levon continued. He also included his own tracks in the new CD.

Mikaelian highly values the contribution of the non-Armenian musicians of the trio. “They did an amazing job putting their personality into it but still keeping it Armenian,” Levon concluded.

A lot of radio stations play the Mikaelian Trio’s music throughout the country. “Stanford University’s jazz music station plays as a lot lately. I even suspected there is an Armenian working at Stanford’s station, because they would out me in every set,” Mikaelian said laughingly at the end of our talk.

The video interview with Levon can be followed below.

Topics: Music
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