Students who received certificates after participating in Arzruni’s master classes

Pianist Sahan Arzruni Tours Armenia, Works with Young Music Students


YEREVAN and NEW YORK — When master pianist Sahan Arzruni spent the majority of June working with music students in some of Armenia’s rural towns, he was interested in learning about the state of musical education outside of Yerevan. He wanted to commune with the youth, but admitted he wasn’t completely sure he’d be able to “speak their language.”

As it turned out, he could, and what he found during his three-week journey was a plethora of small communities rich with young people actively engaged in music.

This was the second time Arzruni had visited Armenia’s music schools. He had already done a similar, but less extensive, tour in 2017. This trip, which took him to five provinces as well as Artsakh, was coordinated by Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR) in partnership with the Armenian Ministry of Culture.

Armenia is still filled with music schools and conservatories, a positive vestige of the Soviet period. Teaching methods at these schools, however, are still very much in the Soviet style, which means highly prescriptive and disciplinarian instruction, according to Arzruni. The curriculum is a bit insular as well. Instructors still focus very much on primarily Russian composers — mainly those they studied themselves as students.

Arzruni visited Arkavand, Ashtarak, Berd, Dilijan, Goris, Kapan, Vanadzor and Stepanakert. Spending two days in each location, he spent a full day listening to several students from different schools play. He then selected a few outstanding pupils who participated in the concert Arzruni would give the second day. Students included pianists, string and wind players, vocalists and folk instrumentalists.

Without upsetting the current course structure, Arzruni set out to introduce them to new methods of thinking and learning about music, and to further stimulate their aesthetic values. He used alternative methods of trying to help students understand ways of playing music. “This was why I was there,” he said. “To show them a different way of playing and doing things.”

Get the Mirror in your inbox:

Arzruni also had another goal, which was to relay the message that studying music — Armenian music, in particular — is not only a terrific mental discipline but also a great way to get to know one’s own culture and to conserve it. This is easier in Armenia’s rural areas where pride and preservation of cultural identity are more natural as opposed to large urban centers where outside influences encumber the purity of ethnic learning, he said.

Along with the master classes, Arzruni met with many provincial and city leaders. He urged officials to pay more attention to culture and music in Armenia’s regions.

The entire tour closed with a performance at the Aram Khachaturian House-Museum in Yerevan, which featured a student representative from each village on trumpet, clarinet, violin, piano, as well as an eight-person drum ensemble.

At the end of the concert, Arzruni received a Certificate of Gratitude from FAR for contributing to the development of young musicians. The pianist also received an award from the Aram Khachaturian House-Museum for his long-lasting friendship and support.

FAR’s Education and Science Program Manager Eduard Karapetyan also said that he, too, highly valued Arzruni’s investment in Armenia’s youth and culture. “Considering how well the tour went, I can state that Sahan Arzruni’s patriotic and extensive work will have a huge educational impact on the musical schools and talented children from these regions. We must thank him once more,” he said.

The benefit tour took place under the auspices of the Ministries of Culture and Youth Affairs of Armenia and Artsakh, and was organized by FAR. He reiterated his gratitude to FAR for orchestrating the initiative. “I’m grateful to them for making it happen,” he said.


Get the Mirror-Spectator Weekly in your inbox: