By Alin K. Gregorian
WINCHESTER, Mass. — The volunteers of YerazArt put together yet another elegant soirée on October 3 to raise funds for young musicians in Armenia. This year the event was held at the home of Raffi and Nina Festekjian. This was the second time they hosted a YerazArt reception.
Around 100 guests were present and almost $50,000 was raised for YerazArt’s Instrument Donation Program, as well as other educational initiatives, including funding for young musicians to attend master classes and participate in international competitions.
The featured guest musician was clarinetist Narek Arutyunian. He was born in Gumri, Armenia in 1992 and moved to Moscow at a young age. He graduated from the Moscow State Conservatory and is currently a student at the Juilliard School in New York. He has won numerous prizes, including first prize in the International Young Musicians Competition in Prague and the Musical Youth of the Planet Competition in Moscow.
He has performed extensively across the United States, in Australia, Asia, and in Europe, where he appeared at the Louvre in Paris and the Palazzo del Principe in Genoa, among other places.
According to YerazArt board member chair Nicole Babikian Hajjar, some schools receiving aid are in Yerevan (Tchaikovsky, Sayat Nova and Jrbashyan – 400 students) while others are in remote areas (Gumri School No 4 -171 students and No 5- 184 students).
“Our main focus remains on what we call rare instruments, mainly woodwind and brass — clarinet, trumpet, flute, trombone, French horn — disciplines that are endangered in Armenia for lack of available instruments,” she said.
She also stressed that the group seeks out rural schools as Yerevan often gets more attention.
“It takes a vast amount of resources on our part to fulfill our commitment to the many young and talented musicians of Armenia: we currently have an annual operating budget of $30,000 for our activities and operations in Armenia. With one person only on our pay-roll, our Armenia Director Arman Padaryan, a major part of the work gets done here in Boston, thanks to a team of dedicated volunteers- my fellow Board members- that I would like to acknowledge and thank tonight: Anna Afeyan, Nina Festekjian, Vahe Ghahraman, Christine Kahvejian, Sargis Karapetyan, Seza Seraderian, Arlette Yegumians and Sylvie Zakarian,” she said in her comments.
She also paid special tribute to YerazArt co-founders and continuous supporters Raffi Festekjian and Noubar Afeyan.
Hajjar was thrilled with the gathering, adding “it was a record attendance,” and expressed her pleasure that the annual fundraiser has become “a signature event” in the Boston area.
Next year, she promised said the format would be different in order to pay tribute to the group’s 10th anniversary.
In his comments, Festekjian said, “In my personal view, it is all about culture for us as a people. Without classical music, what do we have?”
Through the music, he said, Armenians can communicate who they are to the world as well help maintain and nurture that culture in Armenia. He thanked those assembled for their support.
Hajjar said that the students who have either performed for the galas or who have been given aid in the past have all gone on to win awards internationally.
But of course, everyone had gathered to hear the evening’s guest artist, Narek Arutyunian — and he did not disappoint.
Arutyunian thrilled those assembled with his incredible musical skills as well as his ease and charm. He explained how he became a clarinetist, thanks to his father’s playing of folk melodies on the clarinet at weddings and his mother’s love of classical music. His mother, he said, bought him a copy of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto when he was 10 and, he said, he was “mesmerized.”
He thanked YerazArt and the audience, adding, “No words can say how grateful I am [for your work] and I hope you continue.”
Arutyunian performed a variety of pieces, including Spanish Capriccio for Clarinet by Ernesto Cavalli, Fantasy for Piano and Clarinet by Schumann and the third movement from Trio for Violin, Piano and Clarinet by Aram Khachaturian as well as a piece for violin by Pablo Sarasate which he had arranged and transcribed for the clarinet himself.
He left himself and the audience breathless and received a standing ovation.
Nune Hakobyan, his accompanist on the piano who kept up with him flawlessly, deflected any praise directed at her, adding, “With a musician like this, you get even more motivated and engaged. You have to breathe with him.”
Sylvie Zakarian Meguerditchian was delighted with the performance. “I think it was amazing. I thought it was the highest level of artistry. With his enthusiasm he was able to take his audience with him.”
Another guest, Armineh Mirzabegian, said, “Music unites people. Plus I had heard him play before and wanted to see him play in a more intimate setting.”
Raffi Festekjian said, “He is a fantastic talent. It is the kind of talent we want to encourage.”
Since its inception almost a decade ago, YerazArt Foundation has been identifying young, talented musicians from Armenia and assisting them with reaching their full artistic potential. YerazArt programs offer professional development opportunities and financial assistance to musicians to participate in master classes and international competitions. Through YerazArt’s Advisory Board, young Armenian talents
gain access to an extensive support network of music professionals and academia, in Armenia and abroad, which provides mentoring, career counseling, and admission opportunities to the best music programs worldwide. Over the last few years, YerazArt has also instituted a successful Instrument Donation Program, both in Yerevan and in remote areas, with a primary focus on disciplines and instruments that are in danger of extinction such as the woodwind and brass instruments.
For more information about the Yerazart Foundation and its programs, visit www.yerazart.org.