A young boy with his new oud

YEREVAN — “Do whatever you can, without waiting for the perfect time.” This is the motto of the Musical Instruments for Armenia (MIFA), a grassroots charity initiative that aims to tackle the scarcity and lack of access to musical instruments for children in remote regions of Armenia and Artsakh.

What began as an ordinary discussion on Clubhouse social audio network now has turned into an ambitious idea that has fueled a group of Armenian enthusiasts from different parts of the world to roll up their sleeves and bring positive changes.

Music producer and DJ Hayk Harutyunyan and violinist Mariam Vardanyan explained the goals of MIFA, its impact, and future endeavors.

MIFA organizers and some of the children with their new instruments

The core MIFA team, composed of Hayk Harutyunyan, Mariam Vardanyan, Roseanna Kegeyan and Natalya Ghurbanyan, got to know each other via the Clubhouse social audio network in December 2020, soon after the end of the 44-Day War. In one of the most popular Clubhouse audio rooms, titled “Armenia,” compatriots were discussing the means and methods to do something beneficial for Armenia. “While in Germany, I was thinking about how I could help my country and came up with the idea of eliminating the scarcity of musical instruments in Armenia and Artsakh so that children could learn pure Armenian music rather than rabiz (popular music) melodies,” Vardanyan said.

The idea was supported by Harutyunyan, Vardanyan, Kegeyan, Ghurbanyan and other participants in the Clubhouse, who joined in the effort to launch the very first fundraiser for MIFA through the Clubhouse to kickstart the initiative. Later, MIFA organized charity concerts and events both in Armenia and the United States to spread the word about the impact it is making in children’s lives throughout Armenia and Artsakh. This generated a lot of support from renowned Armenian musicians, including Vahagn Hayrapetyan, Garik Papoyan, and Soné Silver, as well as from a well-regarded Armenian radio host and showman Gor Grigoryan (Glumov). “There are schools where children wait for their turn to play an instrument of their choice. We started to visit villages and collect necessary data and register what children’s needs were, which instruments were more in demand, etc.,” recalled Harutyunyan.


Young girls playing qanon

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The majority of the instruments provided by MIFA are Armenian folk instruments. Girls mostly play the qanun, and 20 have been purchased.

Harutyunyan said that the reason for the emphasis on folk instruments is that many children in villages can imagine a future where they play those instruments.

Vardanyan  refers to the myriad of videos available on social media, where Turks and Azerbaijanis present Armenian folk instruments as theirs. However, there are no exceptions or special rules: MIFA is ready to assist in any case, be it national or classical instrument. The cornerstone is to play music by adhering to high quality standards, she added.

There is a popular dilemma concerning the best way to operate a charity organization: simply paying the bills or diving deeper into the core of the problems and going the extra mile to solve them. MIFA has chosen the latter option. “In our opinion, donating instruments is the best possible way. Moreover, we reach out to local stores and instrument makers when it comes to procuring instruments, and thus we contribute to the growth of local businesses and support the traditional musical instrument makers, whose talent and craftsmanship are passed onto the next generations of musicians,” said Harutyunyan.

“The overall process is not as easy as it may seem. It includes meticulous bureaucratic work, reports and data collection. However, all those efforts pay off when instruments are delivered, and you see the gleam in the eyes of kids receiving long-awaited instruments,” noted Vardanyan. This warm welcome and gratitude are healing energies for the team to further expand their mission.

Young boy plays the shvi

The goal of MIFA is to cover the needs of music schools both in Armenian regions and in Artsakh. The team has already visited 36 schools, including the “Chakhruk” ethno music group of the Kharberd specialized orphanage, and donated more than 100 musical instruments. Approximately $17,000 has been raised for the effort, and a number of instruments were donated through in-kind donations by various supporters in Armenia and abroad. The team was also fortunate to have an amazing group of volunteers and supporters, who have dedicated their time and resources to support the cause.

“We have managed to completely cover two regions: Gegharkunik and Lori. We also visited certain schools in Shirak and Ararat regions. To continue our mission, we need financial resources, so there is a need to raise funds again, as the instruments are quite expensive,” added Vardanyan.

MIFA members have other ambitious plans, such as holding seminars, events, and concerts, and organizing visits of children to the capital. As MIFA team members are all volunteering their time to this cause , the key challenge has been for them to find the time out of their busy full-time careers to  dedicate all of their resources to accomplish the aforementioned activities. However, Mariam and Hayk are sure that this is just a matter of time, and one day MIFA will be capable of expanding the scope of its activities.

“I have always dreamed of creating a music academy in Shushi, Jdrduz, and here we are now: it’s no longer ours. And this notorious example comes to prove that time waits for nobody,” said Vardanyan.

A lesson in playing the zourna

“You certainly do not have to be a genius, own a fortune or be famous, in order to make a difference in this world. Anyone, from various paths of life, can have a positive and meaningful impact in the lives of others,” added Harutyunyan.

At MIFA, there is a belief that one should not wait for war or any other disaster to start acting. “In our case, the idea was born after the 44-Day War in Artsakh, but humanity should always act and live collectively, as we are all in one chain,” said Harutyunyan. At first, everything seems very scary, but you only need to take the first step and trust the process.

To contact the MIFA team, write to musicalinstrumentsforarmenia@gmail.com, follow them on Instagram @musicalinstrumentsforarmenia and check on their progress on  www.musicalinstrumentsforarmenia.com.

MIFA also has videos online.

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