by David Zenian
"Music has been my whole life," says Iranian born Loris Tjeknavorian. The stories he had heard as a student in Vienna inspired his dream "to bring some measure of comfort to the people of Leninakan. I remember being told how the Austrian government immediately restored the opera house in Vienna after World War II, even before housing, hoping to bring joy to that devastated city. I thought I might be able to do the same in Armenia."
With a small grant in hand, Tjeknavorian flew to Leninakan to help refurbish the destroyed instruments of schoolchildren throughout the area. Unexpectedly, during his visit, he was asked by members of the Armenia Philharmonic in Yerevan if he would consider taking over the direction of their orchestra.
Today, Maestro Loris Tjeknavorian, composer and conductor, is the first foreign Armenian to head an institution in Armenia. Often sleeping less that 3 hours a night, Tjeknavorian has worked miracles as standing room only audiences fill his weekly Friday night concerts. Raising funds in the US and Europe to purchase new string and wind instruments, expanding the orchestra's repertoire and booking engagements abroad, Tjeknavorian has brought new vitality to the Philharmonic.
Famous for his pre-concert impromptu talks on a myriad of subjects, mostly to instill hope and pride, Loris Tjeknavorian has three goals: to make the Armenia Philharmonic a world class orchestra, to establish "Our Homeland" (Mer Hairenik) as the national anthem and, now, never one to rest on his laurels, to build a permanent cultural center for theater, opera and the arts in the heart of Leninakan.
Encouraged by Tjeknavorian's initiative and dedication in establishing the Children's Symphony in Leninakan during the past two years, the City Government has already allocated the former Communist party headquarters, an adjacent building and a philharmonic hall, partly finished before the earthquake, for the Cultural Center project. With outreach programs for Stepanavan, Spitak and Kirovakan, Tjeknavorian is gearing up a campaign to raise 20 million rubles for the proposed project. Usually departing for Leninakan (a 2 hour drive) immediately after his Friday night concerts, the Maestro says "I'm going to outfit a van with a mattress so at least I can get some sleep on the way."