World famous mezzo-soprano, Solange Merdinian’s schedule fills up quickly. Having just returned from her ancestral Argentina where she performed at the First Armenian Church honoring the church’s 90th anniversary she is getting ready to perform a baroque concert at the Hispanic Society of America in New York. Having partnered with a Grammy award winning singer/ and composer AR Rahman, toured with the Philip Glass Ensemble, among others, Merdinian, 33, often finds partnerships with Armenian artists at the heart of her personal and professional motivations.
How have you been involved with AGBU?
Well before I was born, my grandfather, Carlos Balian, was one of the first members of AGBU in Córdoba, Argentina, where I am from. When I came to New York, many family friends were involved with AGBU so I started to attend many events organized by this amazing organization.
A few years ago, I was asked, with another colleague to organize the first AGBU Performing Artists in Concert at Carnegie Hall. Soon, I was called upon to organize the Boston one, and that was the beginning of an amazing collaboration. In 2016, I was honored to be called in to perform as part of the fantastic show HOKIS by Patrick Malakian for the 110th Anniversary of AGBU and its 89th General Assembly.
What is your best memory of your time with AGBU?
There are many! One memorable moment was the first year of the AGBU Performing Artists in Concert. While organizing it, we went through AGBU's database of all the music scholarship recipients, and got in touch with many of them, we collaborated in many concerts and are still friends with many of them. Another highlight was HOKIS, because of the concept of the show and because I was lucky to share the backstage and the stage with a group of artists from Armenia, who welcomed me as one of their own, given I was there as an artist representing the diaspora.
Can you describe your reaction when you learned that you were awarded the AGBU scholarship?
I was thrilled! It is really wonderful to feel supported by an organization of our own. It reinforces the feeling that we are part of a family, a community, which cares about, and supports future generations.
How did the scholarship and affiliation with AGBU at large help you grow personally and professionally?
AGBU continuously supports me in my professional growth by believing and investing in me. Also, by being an organization that sets the example of excellence, legacy, growth, and well-rooted values through its mission, AGBU sets an example for young professionals like me, to aspire for excellence in whatever field we are in. It is our responsibility as young professionals to make our ancestors proud by being successful while always keeping our integrity and preserving our culture and values. Being part of the big AGBU family is a wonderful feeling.
What is next for you professionally?
I have recitals, performances in collaboration with other artists in various styles throughout the year. I am in the midst of talking with an Armenian musician to collaborate on some electro music. I am one of the soloists of Saint Vartan Cathedral in New York and I teach at the Khrimian Lyceum in New York. 2017 promises to be great with all the partnerships and invitations I have been privileged to be a part of.
How do you think Armenians are perceived in your line of work?
We have had great singers represent us throughout the years. I shall continue to honor my heritage by being a well-rounded human being, always putting my best foot forward, and not taking for granted any opportunities that come my way. I always remember to extend a hand to help fellow artists and people in the community and hopefully make the bridge between of the diaspora and Armenia shorter and stronger.
Banner illustrations by Luis Tinoco