Performance of a lifetime during a pandemic

It becomes an understatement and perhaps overused phrase to say that 2020 has been a tumultuous year. As a global pandemic entered our lives, we each experienced different strengths and weaknesses as we managed to adjust to even simple daily tasks. Whether this involved work challenges, children’s school, taking extra pre-cautions to stay healthy, the list is endless of hurdles we have all had to take these past several months. We fight to find upbeat and memorable events that take place in our lives as we wait for the light at the end of the tunnel that shows us that we will all be safe and can return to a sense of normalcy, whatever that looks like in our lives. For me, it happened on October 5th.

As a musician, this crisis has certainly affected performances, but I have managed to stay active whether it is by using online apps that allow musical collaborations to even re-releasing some older albums I worked on several years ago. This helps fill the void of the disappearance of playing for live audiences. At the risk of being perceived as self-promoting of myself, I do feel proud about a performance that I feel was a ‘once in a lifetime’ event for me, and I would like to share with you.

Several months ago, I was asked to represent Michigan as an artist for the Kennedy Center as they presented a series entitled Arts Across America. A fantastic idea that takes audiences travelling (virtually) across the United States for twenty weeks featuring great talent for music or spoken word in different communities. This is truly an honor and I was so excited (and nervous!) to be part of this series.

Tom Zakarian, Ara Topouzian and Jerry Gerjekian

World Music in Michigan: China & Armenia included my Detroit trio of Jerry Gerjekian (dumbegs) and Tom Zakarian (guitar). Two musical veterans in Armenian and Middle Eastern music.

I shared the “virtual” stage with my musical friend, Xiao Dong Wei, an accomplished musician that at the age of 5, began studying the erhu (the Chinese two-stringed violin) with her father. At age 11, she was accepted into the prestigious Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. Ten years later, she earned her degree becoming a ‘Master of the Erhu’. Xiao and I first met in 2012 when we both were honored to have received a Kresge Artist Fellowship .

The timing of such a concert was mixed for me as Artsakh is engaged in a war for freedom and survival against Azerbaijan. However, the concert was more important than ever as thousands watched and experienced traditional Armenian music and heard me comment that our music has survived a Genocide. It shed a little light on our people, our culture and continued struggles.

I want to thank the Kennedy Center, Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs the all of the comments of encouragement for the performance. Thank you Jerry, Tom and Xiao for making this a complete experience for me!

If you missed it, that’s ok, below you can watch the entire October 5th concert.

This entry was posted in Armenian, detroit, music, world music. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Performance of a lifetime during a pandemic

  1. Diane Dunn, retired harpist says:

    Thank you for keeping me on your email list even though many years have gone by since we knew each other in the Farmington Chamber of Commerce. I’m so glad I got to see your kanun and hear you play it in person and now on videos that come with your emails. I hope you and your family are well.
    Warm regards,

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