Where there is a will, there is a way. Even a snow-bound highway couldn’t bar Dr. Raffi and Mrs. Vicki Hovanessian from their long-awaited visit to the Gyumri Octet School of Music on February 15. This was the couple’s fourth visit to the Octet school. Generous and well-known benefactors from New Jersey, the Hovanessians support Octet in addition to the Hovanessian Cultural Hall of St. Joachim and St. Anne Armenian Apostolic Church in Palos Heights, Illinois.
Students and teachers greeted the cherished guests at the makeshift school, accompanying them to the performance hall, which was heated especially for the couple. The student orchestra surprised their guests by performing a new musical program that could impress even the staunchest of critics. Chosen performance pieces included works by Armenian composers like Mavisakalyan, Khachatur Avetisyan and Grigor Haghinyan. Once the orchestra concluded, the drum ensemble followed. They were a real hit.
Emotions were so high that afternoon that someone suggested naming the orchestra “Shoghakn” meaning “shining, luminous, brilliant” because they had performed so well. It was also suggested that a “Shoghakn Series” of concerts be organized so the group could tour throughout Armenia.
A highlight of the concert was the performance of 12-year old Ani Khachatryan, a violinist who attends the Octet sixth grade with vigor and enthusiasm despite her two-hour commute to school. Born with a cleft palate, she was fortunately able to receive corrective surgery thanks to the support of the Hovanessians. Ani, along with Raya Grigoryan and Hripsimeh Mkrtchyan, presented the couple with a miniature violin as a gift. Now 21 years old, Raya and Hripsimeh have attended Yerevan State Conservatory’s (YSC) Gyumri branch since 2007 thanks to a scholarship from the Hovanessian family. The scholarship changed the girls’ lives as they would otherwise never have been able to study and gain the opportunity to play in such a famous and distinguished orchestra like YSC’s “Kohar” orchestra.
The Octet school also presented the Hovanessians with a drawing depicting Gyumri’s distinct architecture and beautiful streets by Gyumri-born FAR Press Secretary Levon Lachikyan — a fitting souvenir of Gyumri, indeed.
“Such visits inspire not only the children, but us as well,” Dr. Hovanessian said before the couple’s departure. The day was filled with unforgettable warmth and joy, which made it wonderful for all who were there. Gyumri eagerly awaits their return.