On the sixth of December, a diverse audience of music lovers congregated at the Weill Recital Hall in the world-renowned Carnegie Hall to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the AGBU Performing Artists in Concert, organized by the AGBU New York Special Events Committee (NYSEC). The concert raised over $50,000 for AGBU performing arts initiatives worldwide. Commemorating a decade of emerging Armenian artists and Armenian culture, the concert featured the extraordinary talents of young Armenian musicians who have honed their performance skills with the help of AGBU Performing Arts scholarships.
The AGBU New York Special Events Committee is proud to celebrate the achievements of talented Armenian students from around the world who have received AGBU Scholarships from to help them pursue studies in the performing art NYSEC, founded in 2004, is comprised of 11 dedicated volunteers committed to organizing cultural and educational events that showcase these rising stars in the greater New York area. “This concert presents their great versatility, mastery, and artistry in their chosen genre,” said NYSEC Chair Nila Festekjian. “We are thrilled to have assembled such an outstanding representation of talent.”
The annual event is just one of the many examples of how the AGBU Performing Arts Department (PAD) has been educating global audiences about Armenian culture through varied programs and international events. This year’s emerging and established artists are from an array of countries including Armenia, Japan, Russia, Syria and the United States. The concert debuted the vocal talents of soprano Anush Avetisyan, piano protégé Nara Avetisyan, and violin virtuoso Karen Israelyan, alongside Yulia Musayelyan and Mher Mnatsakanyan, who displayed their command of ancient Armenian folk instruments such as the duduk and zurna. Guitarist Saro Babikian and Pardy Minassian opened the concert rendered children’s folk songs by Komitas, continuing the worldwide commemoration of the great Armenian musician’s 150th anniversary. Oboist Lauren Williams Oulbegian joined bassoonist Cornelia Sommer in performing George Philip Telemann’s “Partita No. 1.” Sixteen-year-old cellist Laura Navasardian amazed the audience with her dexterity in performing Aram Khachaturian’s “Dance of Aisha,” “Waltz,” and “Sabre Dance” accompanied by the violin and piano.
AGBU Performing Arts Scholarship offer grants for full-time study in the arts to gifted students at the undergraduate and graduate level. Performers hail from prestigious institutions such as the Julliard School, Yale School of Music, Cleveland Institute of Music, the Vienna Conservatorium, and the Yerevan State Komitas Conservatory.
The biennial AGBU Sayat Nova International Composition Competition has been inviting musicians of all heritages to submit original pieces based on a selected theme since 2006. Designed to introduce Armenian traditions to a wider audience, the competition encourages applicants to compose pieces for an ensemble of western classical and Armenian traditional instruments, drawing inspiration from Armenian poets. This year’s theme was women’s rights in Armenia, drawing inspiration from 20th century poet Silva Kaputikyan. The three winners receive a cash prize in addition to the opportunity to perform in prestigious venues. PAD Director Hayk Arsenyan pointed out that this year, they were able to enlist a wider panel of judges from around the world, thanks to a powerful software application VoxNovus which makes remote participation a streamlined and effective process.
The winner of the competition Aleppo native Pardy Minassian, conducted the premiere of her original composition Lour Da Loure (“News, it’s News”), based on the love story by Kaputikyan. According to her, the shepherd in this forbidden romance is intended to “represent the Armenian nation” likening the shepherd’s perseverance to win the hand of the daughter of a noble family to Armenia’s indominable spirit, despite the class barriers of the time. With powerful spoken words from Avetisyan, accompanied by a duduk rendition by Yulia Musayelyan, traditional zurna notes from Mher Mnatsakanyan, in addition to oboe melodies from Lauren Oulbegian and bassoon tunes from Cornelia Sommer, this avant-garde fusion of traditional Armenian instruments and Western-influenced poetic oration captivated the audience.
“The journey from Aleppo to Carnegie Hall is nothing short of miraculous,” stated AGBU Scholarship Program Officer Leslie Williams. “It is thanks to you, our generous audience members and the AGBU Special Events Committee, that Pardy is here tonight. And since we’re in New York, as Sinatra sang it best, ‘If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.’”
The evening concluded with a lively arrangement of Grigor Arakelian’s piece “Scherzo on Themes by Komitas,” performed by all ten musicians, a final tribute to the beloved Komitas. Donors joined the artists in a post-concert dinner to celebrate the concert’s success.
“The goal of this concert was achieved,” said Hayk Arsenyan, the director of PAD. “We wanted to showcase the talents of scholarship recipients at a prestigious venue and raise funds to help future generations of artists connect with the world through AGBU.”