Edmond Y. Azadian

Tekeyan Convention in Watertown Is Both Productive and Forward Looking

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WATERTOWN — The Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) of the United States and Canada held its 35th annual convention at its almost fully renovated Baikar headquarters on November 23 with a full day of reports, culminating in a dinner program with various awards and performances. Delegates from various Tekeyan centers and TCA Central Board members were hosted by the newly reformed TCA Boston chapter.

Diana Alexanian and Hagop Alexanian of the TCA Detroit chapter present William Terian’s portrait of Vahan Tekeyan
Tekeyan Central Board members and delegates visit the grave of Dr. Nubar Berberian

Prior to the formal meeting, delegates met for dinner November 22. The next morning they went to pay their respects at the grave of Dr. Nubar Berberian in Mt. Feake Cemetery of Waltham, MA with a ceremony officiated by Fr. Arakel Aljalian of St. James Armenian Church of Watertown. Dr. Berberian, aside from his decades of service to the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party, was a founding member of TCA in North America and served as the secretary of the Central Board until the last days of his life.

Dr. Aida Yavshayan, chair of the TCA Greater Boston Chapter, welcomes guests on November 23

The group then went to the Baikar Building, where they were welcomed by TCA Boston chair Dr. Aida Yavshayan. Central Board President Edmond Y. Azadian declared to the delegates that there was a resurgence in Tekeyan activities in recent years, and that its mission of promoting Armenian culture was as important as ever in the diaspora, as well as in Armenia. In turn, TCA Executive Director Aram Arkun said that the convention was an opportunity for exchanging information and new ideas among delegates and direct communication with Central Board members.

As TCA Central Board Treasurer Maro Bedrosian was unable to be present, Assistant Treasurer Kevork Marashlian reported in her stead. He revealed the healthy state of the TCA portfolio, which provided both growth and income for activities over the past four years. The organization has met all its fiduciary responsibilities.

Marashlian also spoke about the Sponsor a Teacher program’s successes in Armenia and Artsakh and encouraged chapters to create opportunities for their communities to learn about this extremely helpful program which has helped staff and teachers of five key schools for several decades.

TCA Central Board member Arto Manoukian of Montreal

Central Board member Arto Manoukian from Montreal explained how TCA has renovated many classrooms of the Tekeyan school in Berdzor, Artsakh, which lies at a very strategic point in the Lachin or Kashatagh corridor linking Artsakh to Armenia. Manoukian said that visitors who see the concrete results become so enthusiastic that they too often decide to join as sponsors and have the opportunity to name a classroom there.

TCA 35th Annual Convention participants

Central Board Secretary Hagop Vartivarian told the group about the publications program of TCA, which is an important means for Armenian-language writers, as well as English-language ones, to have their works made available to readers. He spoke about 12 recent books in the TCA series, of which 8 were published in Armenia, 3 in Los Angeles and 1 in Lebanon. TCA financially helped some additional authors, he said.

Hagop Vartivarian

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The various TCA chapters presented their activity reports, along with Greater NY TCA’s Mher Megerdchian Theatrical Group. TCA representative in Armenia Gayane Muradyan sent her report, which was read in absentia. Muradyan oversees TCA programs in Armenia, which are extensive. In particular, the TCA annual literary and cultural awards are major events in Yerevan.

Treasurer Ani Chatmajian of the Mher Megerdchian Theatrical Group of the TCA Greater NY Chapter

Elections were held for the three non-permanent positions on the TCA Central Board. Diana Alexanian headed the Nominating Committee. Kevork Keushkerian of Pasadena and Arto Manoukian of Montreal were reelected to their seats, while a new board member, Carl Bardakian, who is the chair of the new Metro Los Angeles chapter, and great-grand-nephew of the famous Armenian Democratic Liberal leader Hratch Yervant, was added to the board. Bardakian, a deacon in the Armenian Church, is a former member of the Diocesan Council of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of America as well as former head Men’s Basketball Coach of the Armenian National Basketball Team of the Republic of Armenia.

TCA Metro Los Angeles Chapter Chairman Carl Bardakian, who was elected as a new member of the TCA Central Board

It was announced that the West Coast will soon have an executive secretary, in the person of Mayda Kuredjian Kelechian, who will help local chapters and expand TCA activities in the region.

The Courtesies Committee, headed by Kevork Keushkerian, praised the work of the Central Board and the efficacy of the Sponsor a Teacher program. It voted to give the Dicran Simsarian Trophy to the TCA Detroit chapter as most active chapter in 2018. Though a small chapter in numbers, compared to the Los Angeles or New York chapters, Keushkerian said, it does a great deal of significant cultural, social and fundraising work.

TCA Greater Boston Secretary Vatche Der Torossian
From left, TCA Greater New York Chapter delegates Secretary Shoghig Medzadurian and Vice Chairman Vartan Ilanjian flank New York Chair and Central Board member Hilda Hartounian

After a brief break, the convention moved to the newly renovated Baikar hall downstairs in the evening for a banquet and brief program. Arkun served as master of ceremonies and after pointing out the historical and emotional importance of the building to the community, introduced some local guests, the Central Board members, and delegates. TCA Boston Secretary Vatche Der Torossian welcomed the guests on behalf of the local chapter.

Fr. Norayr Kazazian, a member of the St. James Brotherhood of Jerusalem who moved to New York within the last year, performed the invocation. He will most likely become an official member of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of American shortly. He attended the Vahan Tekeyan School in Beirut but left at age 12 for the monastery in Jerusalem where he remained for over 30 years.

Fr. Norayr Kazazian

The Detroit TCA delegation presented the gift of a new painting by William Terian of the poet Vahan Tekeyan to the Baikar center. Terian has worked 32 ½ years for the Internal Revenue Service as an illustrator and previously worked five years at the Detroit News. The painting was received with great applause and will be placed in the TCA headquarters.

Edmond Azadian spoke about the many people who worked and had important experiences connected with the Baikar Center, and hoped that this will continue in the future after its renovation and after the successful and enjoyable convention this year. He praised the TCA Boston chapter’s efforts in hosting the delegates, Central Board members and guests.

TCA Central Board Secretary Hagop Vartivarian formally gave the Simsarian Cup to the Detroit delegation, praising their activities.

Apet Torosian, left, receives award from Aram Arkun (photo Jirair Hovsepian)

Arkun presented special trophies to Apet Torosian and architect Norair Kherlopian which were inscribed in recognition and profound appreciation of their tireless service and dedication in the renovation of the Baikar Building from the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada, and dated November 23, 2019. Torosian, Arkun said, would come at even at the earliest hours during the week or weekends to open the doors of the Center to various workers, and supervise their work closely. His advice was critical to the early stages of the renovations because of his great experience.

Architect Norair Kherlopian receives his award
Sargis Gavlakian reciting one of his poems

Kherlopian took over and planned and executed the final stages of the renovations, sacrificing much time to find various teams of workers to carry out his design as an architect for the hall and the upstairs. He too would come mornings and nights, Arkun said, to make sure the work continued.

Arkun told the audience that this was not an official opening for the renovated Baikar Center but rather the continuation of the TCA convention. When the building will be completed, a special event or reception will be held for the friends of Tekeyan and the Armenian Mirror-Spectator who have been so supportive in the past.

Dr. Arshavir Gundjian

Montreal violinist Dr. Nuné Melik performed several solo pieces, which entranced the audience and led to a request of an encore, which she was kind enough to accept. Melik, who was born in Siberia and studied in Moscow, began playing the violin at the age of 6. She moved to Montreal in 2009. In 2010 she began the Hidden Treasure International Project to explore and promote rarely heard music, including that of Armenia. She had her solo debut in Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium in 2016 and in 2019 even shared the stage with Jimmy Buffett. She is also the author of poetry and has a doctorate from McGill University.

An unexpected talent turned up in the audience, interestingly again from Montreal. A talented young medical student Chloe Balian, though not prepared to perform, was spontaneously convinced to sing for the friendly audience, and so winningly performed an Armenian song that she too was asked for an encore.

Chloe Balian singing (photo Jirair Hovsepian)

The 25-year-old Balian has sang and danced since she was 3-years old. She is also a pianist with vocal training by a McGill University music professor. She has performed in several plays with Montreal’s Tekeyan HayPem theater group and in many other shows. She can sing in four languages (Armenian, English, French and Spanish). Balian holds a master’s degree in pathology, and is in medical school at the University of Montreal.

Nuné Melik performing a violin solo (photo Jirair Hovsepian)

 

The final element of the cultural program was a heartfelt recitation of two of his own rhythmically inspired poems by TCA Boston executive member Sargis Gavlakian.

The entire evening was made all the more enjoyable by the culinary talent of caterer and longtime Tekeyan supporter Sarkis Antreassian.

While the convention ended late that night, the Tekeyan Central Board held a meeting the next morning to discuss forthcoming activities.

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