Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown – Armenia

Tony has a coffee with Richard Giragosian, the director of a think tank, the Regional Studies Center on the Casacade Steps looking over Yerevan. PHOTO BY JOSH FERRELL

If you haven’t heard about the recent episode of Anthony Bourdain traveling to Armenia as part of his series Parts Unknown, you have most likely been living under a rock for the last month. I have to admit I have not watched much of the Bourdain series, but this past Sunday night I watched his travels to Armenia. Sure, we could all be critical about what we saw, afterall – Armenia is a passion for anyone that is Armenian and we have our thoughts on what needs to be portrayed.  However, the reality is that this was an excellent episode with a lot of detail packed into less than an hour for television. Special kudos for referring to the massacres as a Genocide within the first few minutes of the episode.

I want to thank Mr. Bourdain, CNN, and all that were involved in putting this together. The other reality is that we as Armenians should be grateful for whenever a documentary or television episode features Armenia and Armenians. In the last five years, we have been fortunate to get the wide amount of coverage from a major motion picture like The Promise to documentaries They Shall Not Perish.

Here are some great behind the scenes information included by Mr. Bourdain published:

The Perfect Day in Yerevan
Parts Unknown Fan Recap: Armenia
Anthony Bourdain’s Field Notes with videos

Watch the full episode:

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Latest Michigan Nonprofit report shows impact of arts organizations have on economy

I have long been an advocate for the arts both on a local and national basis. The arts plays such a vital role in so many categories – education, child development, jobs, and economic impact.

Currently, I am involved with Creative Many Michigan (CMM) as a board member. As a statewide organization, CMM helps develops creative people, creative places and the creative economy for a competitive Michigan through research, advocacy, professional practice and communications.


Recently, CMM released a nonprofit report, the seventh edition of this report. In Michigan, the nonprofit organizations account for 16% of this sector which is over 400 nonprofits.

Some of the highlights in this report, by the numbers:

  • 4,142,197 school children experienced arts and cultural venues and events – a 14% increase over the prior year. A total of 73,694 students were served by 3,941 reported arts education programs in schools.
  • Organizations paid $291,243,968 in salaries, payroll taxes and fringe benefits, supporting 25,144 jobs – a 4.3% increase in total compensation. Unfortunately, this was a slight decrease from previous year but these are real jobs in Michigan!
  •  Arts and cultural destinations generated 12.6% of Michigan’s leisure travel spending in 2016.

Those that know me, also know the strong passion I have for the nonprofit community. I have worked most of my professional career in the nonprofit arena and as a chamber of commerce executive, we have one of the stronger non profit networks in the county. The network is in place so that we can assist them and so that they can rally amongst themselves for assistance. Annually, Troy Chamber of Commerce hosts a Nonprofit Management Conference that helps educate our members so that they can help their organizations increase their potential within the community.

You can view the entire report by clicking here.

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Armenian Music in Hartland, MI

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to perform Armenian and Middle Eastern music in Hartland, Michigan. This is a small community with under 15,000 people and not richly diverse, but a community that wants to embrace diversity.

The Cromaine District Library had me come out to talk and play music as part of their Livingston Reads 2018 initiative and specifically the book Murder On The Orient Express.

I was joined by musician friend Tom Zakarian on guitar.

It was a small, but engaged audience. Most of the library patrons asked questions which I enjoy the gratification I get from doing these performances is the feedback afterward. I had a couple of people come up to me to let me know that it was intriguing enough for them to research and learn more about the Armenian Genocide. This could be the greatest compliment because I hope that by performing and talking about my experiences with music and background, that it will help educate others about my rich Armenian history.


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Documentary and presentation on Armenian Genocide in Detroit

3g03173u-1574.jpg SHALL NOT PERISH

The Story of Near East Relief


The Near East Foundation

Documentary and Presentation

The documentary details the unprecedented humanitarian efforts of thousands of Americans who saved a generation of refugees and orphans in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide.

 The Near East Foundation continues its philanthropic work today in Armenia, Israel, and the Middle East.


ANCA-Mardirossian Shant Mardirossian (Board Member of the Near East Foundation, Guest Presenter)

 Saturday, March 10, 2018

Two showings – 2:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Lawrence Technological University

hosted by the

Armenian Churches of Greater Detroit Genocide Commemoration Committee

St. John Armenian Church

St. Sarkis Armenian Church

St. Vartan Armenian Catholic Church

Armenian Congregational Church

Additional details are forthcoming

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Jim Stoynoff, Greek/Macedonian Klarino

In a recent blog about Yiannis Roussos, I mentioned my friend Jim (Dimitri) Stoynoff. He is another phenomenal musician that is a bit of a walking encyclopedia of history about Middle Eastern music and more importantly, the scales (makams) which the music is performed.

His skill on the clarinet is equally as talented as his vast history of musicians, the dances, and folk music origin. By accident I found the below clip from a few years ago that promoted an event he was playing at in Chicago. This is a great example of his knowledge and love for the music and gives you a taste of his background. I hope you enjoy it. More about Jim in future blogs!

Jim Stoynoff Bio – Iron Heart Chicago 2015 from Old Town School of Folk Music on Vimeo.

Here is just a example of Jim’s playing abilities. So much out there to experience.

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Fred Elias (1922-2018) – Legendary Violinist

Fred Elias was a legendary musician. An Arab violinist, living to an impressive age of 95 years old, passed away only a few hours ago from the publishing of this blog.

Fred is in the middle row on the right, next to the bouzouki player.

He was well regarded throughout the country, especially in the east coast. Many would call him a “helluva violin player!” He played up until near the end of his life. A staple in Middle Eastern music, Fred played with all ethnicities (Armenian, Arab, Greek, Turkish, etc) and knew more about the modes (scales) and the music than most musicians. He was trained at the Boston Conservatory of Music and was a true virtuoso that performed with countless musicians such as Eddie Kochak, Joe Kouyoumjian, Emin Gunduz, Korkoras Brothers, and Buddy Sarkissian. He recorded 78RPM records, LPs and CDs. He was an active musician with a great sense of humor. I had the pleasure of meeting and playing with Fred several years ago in Boston and he couldn’t have been any nicer to me.


Photo by: Alice Gebura

For us as musicians, Fred was an icon. He was one of the masters. Loved and admired by so many musicians and patrons. He knew the Rat Pack (Sinatra, Davis, Martin) and travelled with comedian/actor Danny Thomas at one point playing gigs.

God bless Fred for all the music and enjoyment he brought to us all of these years. Enjoy these YouTube clips containing some nice music from Fred.


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Greek Santouri player Yiannis Roussos

Several years ago, I met Jim Stoynoff, a Greek/Macedonian clarinet player from Chicago. We met at a Chicago music/folk dance festival that I attended because I knew oudist Joe Zeytoonian was coming in to play the gig and we had become friends and started to work together. Through this connection from Joe came Jim and through Jim came a wonderful CD of Greek folk music called Return to our Roots which was produced by Jim Stoynoff which I have carried through American Recording Productions for several years.

MI0000265987The music on this album is led by Jim with a wonderful ensemble which included a special guest artist, John (Yiannis) Roussos on the santouri. The Santouri is a stringed instrument in the hammer dulcimer family. There are Greek, Persian and an Indian types which are distinct from each other in style, construction, tuning and technique.

I recently became reconnected with John through his music via Facebook (thanks again to Joe for commenting on an interview he saw!) and I wanted to share this great video interview of John that recently appeared in Cosmos Philly, a Greek-American online newspaper. Enjoy!

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