Over 250 music aficionados gathered at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall in New York to celebrate the next generation of Armenian talent at the 11th AGBU Performing Artists in Concert. Organized by the AGBU New York Special Events Committee (NYSEC), it was their first concert programmed with exclusively Armenian music, using traditional instruments performed by AGBU scholarship recipients hailing from internationally renowned institutions like The Julliard School, The Tchaikovsky Conservatory of Moscow, and The Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
The concert honored the iconic Lucine Amara, an American soprano of Armenian heritage who made her Metropolitan Opera debut as the “Voice from Heaven” in Verdi’s Don Carlos and continued to grace stages with iconic performances in Carmen, Madama Butterfly, Don Giovanni, Aida, and more.
The performance also paid tribute to the late Artemis Nazarian, a lifelong advocate of the arts and AGBU’s performing arts endeavors. Though her philanthropy extended far and wide, her dedication to young talent helped fund higher education and performance opportunities for musicians across the globe. An accomplished piano player herself, Nazarian’s generosity impacted the lives of countless AGBU artists and continues to do so with her Memorial Scholarship for performing arts.
The program was authored by artistic director and performer Diana Gabrielyan and Hayk Arsenyan, director of AGBU Arts. The program put historic elements of Armenian folk music center stage, using lesser-known instruments like the viola da gamba and kamancha to stay true to authentic compositions, including pieces from Edvard Baghdasaryan, Alexander Spendiaryan, and Alexander Arutiunian. “It’s really exciting to be a part of a project where there is new music written for early instruments, and I’m happy to be a part of this — also in an Armenian context,” said London-based viola da gamba player Lucine Musaelian.
The performance premiered pieces like “Gushakuhin” from legendary Armenian composer Alexander Spendiaryan and returned to classics like Komitas’ “Karun a” and Aram Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance.” The audience was also introduced to Spendiaryan’s “Romance,” a delicate melody not heard before.
The artists were equally thrilled and proud to work on this project with fellow Armenian musicians from around the globe. “It’s my first time performing at Carnegie Hall and this is a great opportunity for me to play the piano, sing, accompany myself, and work with wonderful Armenian musicians,” said Sydney-based musician Christopher Nazarian. “AGBU is also special to me because it’s like a home away from home.”
AGBU Performing Arts Scholarships offer grants for full-time study in the arts to gifted students at the undergraduate or graduate level. “I’m very grateful for AGBU, and I’m super honored to have my scholarship,” said trumpet player Sean Alexander, who performed with the Arutiunian trio. “They helped support my orchestral performance degree at Manhattan School of Music. I would not be where I am today in my trumpet career without it,” Alexander stated emphatically.
AGBU NYSEC is a female-led group of 11 dedicated volunteers that was formed in 2004 with a commitment to organizing cultural and educational events that showcase rising stars. “I am extremely appreciative of AGBU for giving NYSEC the opportunity to showcase talented Armenian musicians,” said NYSEC Chair Nila Festekjian. “Not only do we raise money for scholarships, but help the musicians make lifelong friendships, support each other throughout their careers and make valuable connections through AGBU.”
The concert raised $55,000 for AGBU performing arts initiatives in support of music education and the arts as well as to cultivate emerging musical talents worldwide.