Building my YouTube channel


Not too long ago, I decided that I wanted to grow my video music YouTube channel. Currently I have over 100 videos that I have posted over the last several years. In the past, I didn’t put much effort into this channel, it was a space where I would “park” performance clips so that when potential event organizers needed video clips (aka demo reel) I could direct them to my channel. However, since the pandemic portion of COVID seems to have ended and an influx of performances, I have noticed many new viewers of my channel. So, I decided to focus on this channel for awhile.

Image from a recent TikTok ad I posted promoting a performance.

The journey has been fun and interesting especially as I found some new methods of promoting and growing the channel.

  • I am on TikTok. Yep, you heard me right. Just one post alone has created over 1200 views in a week. I am no Kardashian, but I am happy with the early results! (The video is above) Also created this one, click here.
  • I have created mini videos and placed them on my musical Facebook and Instagram pages asking folks to help me reach 1,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel.
  • At a recent performance, I gave away musical CDs as an incentive for people to subscriber to my channel. We all like free things and this went over well.

So…if you are a fan of my playing or the music itself and want to help me out..I would love for you to help me reach 1,000 subscribers.

Please subscribe to my channel at https://www.youtube.com/@atopouzian 

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A Cultural Experience Performing at The Hawk

In the last few years, I have tried to avoid writing blog posts about my performances as I am really looking to create content in these postings which may be more thought provoking or promotional of other topics. However, I would like to make an exception for a performance I did a few weeks ago that needs some attention. Not because I performed, but for the work that went behind the scenes to create this event.

(Photo courtesy: City of Farmington Hills) Lobby of The Hawk

The Hawk is a marvelous venue. It is the former Harrison High School that was purchased by the City of Farmington Hills, Michigan a few years ago. The city transformed the school into a multi useful venue (community center) that includes a fitness center, multiple theater opportunities, sports arenas and much more. Through my affiliation with the Michigan Arts and Culture Council, I was even invited to their Makerspace unveiling which is a great opportunity for all ages that wish to make something and provide them the technical resources to do so.

I have had a long and enjoyable affiliation with the City of Farmington Hills, especially their Special Services Department which includes their robust arts and culture efforts. This is a dynamic team led by Rachel Timlin that provides some of the finest events and ideas I have seen in our region. All of her team are rockstars and they know I am major fans of all of them. For this event, I worked with their Program Coordinator Lindsay Janoch.

Our performance at The Hawk

Last year we discussed putting on a small concert highlighting Armenian music at The Hawk. That quickly turned into discussing how we could incorporate Armenian cultural components. However, I really didn’t realize to what extent the city department would go for this event and I was really blown away by the work and effort (and care!) they took in putting this event together.

Here is what Lindsay and her team helped put together for this event:

  • We utilized The Hawk BlackBox which was the schools old band room. A perfect smaller room that was ideal for this entire event.
  • They decorated the stage and room with artifacts and oriental rugs that were provided by sponsor Hagopian Rugs.
  • They had several stations focused on Armenian culture:
    • You could help weave a rug.
    • Children could color in the Armenian flag or the Republic of Armenia emblem.
    • Children could even make a crown or part of an Armenian costume!
    • They had a map of Armenia and individuals could place a pin on the map where they were from along with post a index card about their family history and what brought them to this country.

During the workshop, participants got the ability to play some music with us!

Drums! We had a ton of different percussion instruments for anyone to play. Prior to the concert, we (George Nigosian & Jerry Gerjekian as well) taught a short workshop where we demonstrated and talked about the instruments. I gave the participants an easy rhythm to learn, a 2/4 tempo, and we played a song together. The song was Karoun, Karoun, a song that Armenians identify with but is also performed by other ethnicities. At the end of our performance, we surprised the audience by having the workshop participants grab a percussion instrument and played along with us.

Kudos to Lindsay and the entire team that took great care in creating more than just a musical event, but a cultural experience that continues to make me proud to be an Armenian. In the meantime…check out the Hawk and their other cultural performances, you will be a better person for it. 🙂

Posted in Armenian, armenian genocide, art, creativity, culture, detroit, music, Reflections | Leave a comment

Musicians Reunite, No Missing Beats

This morning I was thinking about a musical gig I did the other night. Luckily now that the pandemic part of COVID seems to be behind us, playing music has picked up once again and we are seeing live music return in full force.

Last night I was reunited with two musical friends that I have had a long association with and have enjoyed immensely playing music with them. Doug Shimmin is a musician that is part of the legendary Detroit band, Immigrant Suns (amongst other great Detroit-based groups) Doug and I connected many years back and at one point, not only were we playing a lot of music together, we formed a group called Eastern Winds and made an album together. Doug played acoustic guitar last night and it was such a delight to be on stage with him again.

His nephew, Michael Shimmin is an extraordinary percussionist. Mike plays in too many groups to mention in this short group – but he is a working musician always on the go! He played with Doug and I on darbuka at this gig. He is flawless drummer  that provides high energy and excitement to his performances.

The three of us performed at TechCity Jam, an event sponsored by Bank of Ann Arbor that consists of musicians that by day, work in the Michigan entrepreneurial ecosystem. Its event that I was introduced to over three years ago and performed it with Doug & Mike. We had fun in 2019 and we had fun in 2022.

Ironically, the last time I performed with Doug & Mike was this exact event – but you wouldn’t have known it. We performed only one set for about twenty minutes, but the music was tight and rocked. I don’t think any of us missed a beat. That was what got me thinking about this gig and the musicians I have had the good fortune to play with over the years. Some you click with and others you do not. There are times you get reunited with musicians and you may wonder “Gee, why did I ever play with that person?!” Well, with Doug & Mike, that isn’t the case. Good job guys, such a fun gig!

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Tired of the Silence

I will make this short.

As the title of this post suggests, I, along with every Armenian, is tired of the ongoing silence that resonates over the treatment of our people by the Turkish government.

The latest.

In the early hours of September 13th, Azerbaijani troops struck once again with a major military assault on the Armenians around 200 kilometers from the cease-fire border in the Republic of Armenia. By the end of this assault, 200 Armenian soldiers were killed and over 7000 Armenian residents displaced. Azeri troops advanced on Armenian soil. All in a matter of hours.

Armenian were attacked less than two years ago ending with a cease-fire which was established. This latest attack is the deadliest since the 2020 attacks and once again, Azeri troops once again broke that peace and where is the rest of the world stand while our people get attacked? Silence.

Without stepping too far into politics with this blog, as an Armenian, I am disgusted that more isn’t done to help our brothers and sisters in Armenia. When is enough going to be enough and our world leaders speak up and stand up for Armenia? When will there be reparations for the brutal killings that have occurred?

How much more must we lose – our land, lives and culture before anyone hears our cries?

 

Azerbaijan Attacks Armenia: Take Action Now to Block U.S. Military Aid to Baku

 

Congressional leaders condemn Azerbaijani attack on Armenia; demand Biden cut all military aid to Azerbaijan

https://www.euractiv.com/section/azerbaijan/opinion/what-azerbaijans-assault-on-armenia-says-about-the-new-world-order/ 

https://www.reuters.com/world/pelosi-condemns-illegal-attacks-by-azerbaijan-armenia-2022-09-18/

 

Posted in Armenian, armenian genocide, Artsakh, Genocide | 2 Comments

When commercials were fun

The other day I was looking for a graphic to go along with another post I created when I stumbled on an old commercial on YouTube that I remember in my youth. I got a short chuckle out of it and I began to think about the creativity that went into creating such television advertising several decades go. Now, it seems that we only see creativity in television commercials (well, that’s debatable I guess) when it comes to Super Bowl commercials. Millions of dollars are spent for a short 30 second commercial during the Super Bowl, so I guess they need to bring their ‘A’ game when it comes to creativity.

It got me to search for other commercials that I felt hit a home run on creativity – most of the time, humor was involved. Tell me if these commercials were your favorites or if you can recommend some newer ones:

This was such an iconic phrase when I was growing up.

Can’t publish this blog without asking “Where is the Beef?!”

Classic!

This was shown in Detroit all the time, featuring the radio icon, the Great Gildersleeve…

I remember this one as a kid…

Never saw this one, but had to include because I am a fan of Jackie Gleason.

… and who doesn’t remember “You can call me Ray…”

Ok, well, this is an outtake from Orson Welles famous Paul Masson wine commercials. I have to include, so funny.

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Mal Barsamian & Qawsaan (Two Bows) Concert Recital at Tufts University

It is not every day that I watch a concert of live Middle Eastern music and become completely impressed and immersed into the entire performance. That is not to mean that I haven’t been impressed by Middle Eastern musical artistry, but it has been sometime since I heard a group of artists perform together with such flawless talents that captivated my attention for the entire performance.

On Sunday, February 20th, Tufts University presented a recital featuring Armenian musical virtuoso, Mal Barsamian on oud (Middle Eastern lute). He was joined by Layth Sidiq, violin and Naseem Alatrash, cello in a performance of 20th century music by Arabic, Egyptian, Lebanese, Iraqi, and Armenian composers. In a word – fabulous.

The hour and a half long recital consisted of an array of classical and folk related material chosen by Mal who led the trio. All three musicians have an affiliation with the Tufts musical program but this was the first time this trio has performed together. Remarkably, they had only one day of rehearsal, the day before this concert. You would have never known it. Flawless as they moved through a myriad of scales and rhythms.

All of the songs were carefully chosen in order to highlight the string instrumentation such as the intro song Samai Lami by Iraqi oudist/composer Ghanem Haddad. This song set the warm tone for the rest of the concert.

A major influencer of Arabic music was Egyptian oudist/composer Mohammed Abdel Wahab who composed many popular tunes to a point where it would be uncommon not to hear one of his compositions in a Middle Eastern musical concert. The trio performed two songs by Wahab: Ibn El Balad and Leilet Hob, both songs were considered popular tunes for belly dancers.

The trio included another favorite song that Mal recorded on his solo album a few years by Tunisian composer Anouar Brahem called Itr El Ghajar.

It was a natural assumption that Mal would bring Armenian composers and songs to center stage of this recital including many Armenian composers ranging from Tatul Altunyan (Yarimo), Kemani Tatyos Ekserciyan (Rast Semai) Vagharshak Kotoyan ( Sevani Tsgnorsneru Bar), Boghos Kirechjian ( Vart Kaghelen Goukas Var & Yaylouges Gorav) to contemporary oudist/composer Ara Dinkjian (Invisible Lover). I cant say that I have a favorite as all of these songs were performed with perfection but extra kudos goes to the trio performing Yarimo which can be a complex song that changes rhythms with every measure.

Mal Barsamian represents the third generation of oud (lute) players in his family. Having obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classical guitar performance under Robert Paul Sullivan at the New England Conservatory of Music, he went on to become a sought-after player of the oud and dumbeg (hand drum). He has played within Armenian, Greek, and Middle Eastern musical communities throughout the country for over thirty years, and also performs on guitar, clarinet and saxophone. He teaches private and ensemble sessions at Tufts University.

Layth Sidiq is a Jordanian-Iraqi award-winning violinist, composer and educator and the current artistic director of the New York Arabic Orchestra. He has toured the world and shared the stage with major artists such as Simon Shaheen, Danilo Perez, Javier Limon and Jack Dejohnette, as well as performing in prestigious venues like the London Jazz Festival, Boston Symphony Hall, WOMEX Expo, and Panama Jazz Festival.

Naseem Alatrash is a Palestinian cellist and composer. He has appeared at numerous international festivals, including the Newport Jazz Festival, the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival, and many more. Alatrash has received international acclaim from media around the world, for his musical arrangement/producing a cover of the Beatles song “Drive My Car.” As a collaboration with Public Radio International’s radio show The World and the Berklee College of Music, he arranged/adapted the Beatles song with an Arabic twist.

 

 

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Armenia and Ukraine – Common Victims of Genocide

Each year through this blog, I do my best to commemorate April 24th, a date too well known to Armenians worldwide when 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered by the hands of the Turkish government, then referred to as the Ottoman Empire. This is a hard story to write each year, but nevertheless an important one and its the only time I allow myself to wander off the path of the theme of these blogs.

Often we use the phrase “if we are not careful, history will repeat itself”. For the Armenians, we know this phrase all too well.  Just close to two years ago, the Armenians once again suffered the fate of the hands of the Turkish government, this time from their cousins – Azerbaijan. Some have called it the Nagorno-Karabagh Conflict, but what it has been (since 1988) is Azerbaijan looking to take land historically under Armenia’s domain (for centuries) for their own. They used the same tactics used by their ancestral cousins deployed 100 years ago, however this time they had double the force with the aid of Turkey.

Innocent Armenians were killed and land was taken

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin told his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev to “take care of Christian shrines”. A joke as Aliyev destroyed those sacred buildings.

Fast forward, the attack on Armenians continues to this day. Yet, 107 years after our ancestors were murdered – we do not forget and can never begin to heal until Turkey acknowledges their hideous actions. Even today, their PR machine continues as they attempt to erase the past or cloud the internet with their falsehoods by claiming it was a “civil war” or “death occurred on both sides”.

Let there be no mistake – it happened. It continues to happen and sadly, history will repeat itself.

Now we see the poor people of Ukraine that have been killed and displaced like the Armenians once were. At least the USA has decided to aid and help these refugees. However, where were the allies when Armenian was being killed 107 years ago … and two years ago?

Genocide is just that – man’s inhumanity to man. We continue to allow history to repeat itself…over and over again.

To the millions of Armenians and Ukrainians that have perished due to government control, may their memories be eternal.

 

 

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What time are you creative?

Recently, I saw an article headline which immediately grabbed my attention.

The Quiet Joys of the Very, Very Early Morning Club. It was written by Jason Gay and published in the Wall Street Journal. When I opened the article, I was expecting a real in-depth look at statistics and other mental wellness for getting up early, but it was more of a humorous (and pretty relatable) perspective of Mr. Gay’s (a sports columnist for Wall Street Journal) writing habits. It is definitely worth the read, especially if you can identify with the notion of getting up early in the morning and how that could be the most productive part of the day. 

For me, his anecdotes were fitting. I have been part of the early morning club for several years and know of several friends that operate and thrive the same way, including my wife – who gets up now even earlier then me.

Getting up early has been a way of life for most of my professional life. We all experienced sleeping in late as teenagers and now if I wake up past 8am on a Saturday I feel like I have overslept and half of my day is wasted. Funny what getting old does to ones brain!

Getting up when it is still dark out is when my mind seems to be at its clearest. It is quiet in the house and after a (hopefully) good nights sleep and a little jolt of caffeine, I seem to get the creative juices flowing. My ideas for blogs come to me most of the time first thing in the morning and I am able to compartmentalize my thoughts for my day job activities at this time. If I know that I have a lot to catch up on, the alarm is set for 4am and by 7am, I feel like I have put in a full day and got a lot done. 

Like Mr. Gay’s article, this does come with drawbacks. He indicates his brain is “fried” by mid-afternoon and especially in a almost post-Covid era where we are working from home, I cant look at my computer come late afternoon without a long break. 

Another component that works with the early morning club is interment fasting. Now, I would be the last person to talk about dieting and such, but I must say that the combo of fasting and early morning working (I walk on my treadmill between 1 and 2 miles each morning) seems to work great for me – creatively speaking. Food can certainly create the sleepy environment so I have found that this combination keeps my mind sharp. It is amazing how the brain works

Are you an early bird or night owl?

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Guardians of Music: History of Armenian Music in Detroit NOW ON AMAZON

In 2015 which marked the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, I released a film documentary. Guardians of Music: History of Armenian Music in Detroit followed the journey of Detroit Armenian musicians that were children of Armenian Genocide survivors and continued the tradition of performing Armenian folk music and creating a sense of community for the Armenian people.

This film featured rare photos and film clips of musicians and bands that entertained Armenian audiences in the metro Detroit area for decades.

Now, I am happy to announce that my film is available on Amazon.

If you haven’t seen this film, I would hope that you would give it a try and rent it or buy it on Amazon for a fraction of the cost it took to produce. This was a labor of love and the message of perpetuating the story of Armenian music and the musicians that allowed the music to live on even after a horrific Genocide continues to be a focal point whenever I am performing for live audiences.

If you have seen the film and would be so kind as to give it a favorable review, that is also appreciative!

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Michigan State University: Creativity in the Time of Covid-19

In this blog I have often discussed how the pandemic affected Michigan artists. The ability to adjust to an environment that disabled the ability to perform in front of a live audience, to be able to see instant gratification for their efforts.

Recently, I was contacted by a group within Michigan State University that is working on a a project on creativity during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Here is a brief video describing the project:

They are collecting creative work people have been making throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly creative pieces that encourage new conversations, activism, and creativity around the racial and social injustices revealed by the pandemic. Everyone who submits a creative piece and agrees to be included will:

  • Have their creative work and connected stories documented and included in a major online collection, and have the option to share them with wider audiences
  • Contribute to history by preserving crucial moments and memories from COVID-19 for themselves and future generations
  • Help ensure that diverse peoples, experiences, and communities are represented in our collective stories about the pandemic

They welcome everyone, from first time creators to experienced professional artists, to share their artwork. They also welcome all forms of expression. Creativity can be defined in many ways, and we are interested in anything you have used to help understand, process, and communicate your individual experience of the pandemic, including but not limited to:

  • Painting
  • Pottery
  • Sculpture
  • Protest art
  • Traditional Arts
  • Basket making
  • Fiber arts
  • Poetry
  • Wood working
  • Comics
  • Photography
  • Cooking
  • Building
  • Gardening
  • Making music Dancing

And, other everyday activities that have become meaningful during the pandemic.

Everything submitted will be showcased in an online archive and considered for inclusion in our physical exhibitions.

You can help by responding to the call for artists attached in the link below and by sharing this link throughout your networks. The following link will close: May 2022.

Link: https://tinyurl.com/CreativityInTheTimeOfCovid19

This project is funded by the Mellon Foundation “Just Futures” initiative. If you would like assistance distributing the call for artists, reach out to our Graduate Project Coordinators, Mitch Carr and Soohyun Cho, at creativityandcovid@gmail.com.

Visit the Digital Humanities and Literary Cognition Lab website for more information.

Posted in art, art work, covid19, Creative Industries, creativity, culture, music, Reflections | Leave a comment