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A Life of Music

Maral Ani Avakian

Maral was a vibrant, outgoing young woman who endeared herself to everyone she met.

By the time Maral Ani Avakian was nine years old, she could play Aram Khachaturian’s ballet suite “Gayane” by ear. Recognized very early in life as a talented musician, music would come to play a fundamental role in her life, which was prematurely cut short in 2006. Her love for music continued after her passing through an AGBU scholarship fund established in her name to help Armenian students of music reach their potential.

Maral was raised in a household filled with music. After graduating from the AGBU Tarouhi Hagopian School for Girls in Lebanon and the AGBU Melkonian Educational Institute in Cyprus, Maral’s mother, Vartouhi Sarkissian, was a student at the Lebanese National Higher Conservatory of Music in Beirut where she focused on singing. After moving to the United States, she instilled her own love of music in her daughters, first in Maral— born in Detroit in 1957—and then in her twin daughters, Gareen and Loreen, born five years later.

Maral started piano lessons at the age of four at the prestigious Detroit Institute of Music Education, taking to the instrument almost immediately and quickly excelling in her craft. As a child, she often volunteered to perform at Armenian community functions, dazzled her parents and classmates with her talent and received numerous awards and accolades for her musical abilities.

Her interest in music followed her to California, where she moved with her family in 1971, and blossomed alongside a profound interest in her Armenian heritage. Maral won a full scholarship to the University of Southern California (USC), but decided to major in business and psychology, continuing to study the piano with private lessons.

Her beauty led her to dabble in modeling after graduating from USC, but her eye for business and her drive for risktaking ultimately drew her to a career in real estate in California and Arizona—all with the idea that she would one day save enough money to leave real estate and focus exclusively on her music. She had the determination to continue her music on the side, composing for television and film and always looking for an opportunity to improve her performance skills, style and technique.

A turning point in her life came in 2004 when Maral made her first trip to Armenia and fell in love with the country. She was struck and saddened by the gloominess and poverty that pervaded the country, even more than a decade after independence from Soviet rule, and was drawn to Armenian artists in particular and felt a connection to the national pain they expressed in their art. She returned with many beautiful paintings that she treasured until her untimely death at the age of 48.

In an effort to pay tribute to her daughter’s love of music and her devotion to Armenia, Vartouhi founded the AGBU Maral Ani Avakian Memorial Endowment to support music students, in particular those studying in Armenia. “Maral was a vibrant, outgoing young woman who endeared herself to everyone she met. With this endowment, I want to help support students who are capable and talented like she was, so that she will remain bright in the hearts and minds of more than just those who loved her in life,” said Vartouhi. In this way, Maral’s memory will live on in the musical notes of AGBU scholarship recipients for generations to come.

September 01, 2017