Thursday, June 07, 2007

Graduate student performs sounds of home

June 6, 2007
Ball State Daily News, IN
Matt Erler

Armenian-born pianist hopes recital will help bridge cultural gap

Anna Vanesyan concentrates on the her playing during a rehearsal for her Doctor of Arts Recital. Vanesyan will perform "Festive" composed by Alexander Arutinan in collaboration with Arno Babjanianwill, accompanied by her instructor James Helton on the piano, along with Erwin Mueller and Cara Thornberry on percussion. The recital is at 8 p.m. Friday at Sursa Hall.

When Anna Vanesyan came to Ball State from Armenia in 2002, she was surprised to find that despite Muncie's cultural and geographic distance from her home country, students in the School of Music both embraced her culture and the music that came from it. Vanesyan was able to transition to the new country while resting in the comfort of familiar sounds.

"In the music school they are not only tolerant of other cultures, but want to go deep, and see other cultures and have more knowledge about other cultures," Vanesyan said. "I think that's very important for musicians." Friday, the Armenian-born Ball State student will present a series of compositions by Armenian composer Alexander Arutunian at 8 p.m. in Sursa Hall.

James Helton, associate professor of Music Performance, said the Armenian style of music required musicians who were adept at playing music from different cultures.

"Any time you play music from a different culture - all music has elements of its cultures - when you play music from other cultures you want to find ways to bring out that flavor. You come away with an idea of the flavor - like trying a different food, there's a certain kind of spice in it."

Despite the language barrier between the composer of the pieces and some of the performers, Vanesyan believes the spirit of the compositions won't be lost.

"They feel the spirit of Armenian music so well," Vanesyan said. "It doesn't matter that the composer that wrote this music speaks Russian or Armenian."

In addition to Helton's performance with Vanesyan, retired professor of music Mary Hagopian will sing a traditional Armenian lullaby.

Vanesyan hopes the performance will help illustrate that despite language barriers and cultural differences, people can unite. In many ways, Vanesyan said the recital is a way for Vanesyan to give back to the Ball State and Muncie community, as well as represent her country.

But on a broader level, Vanesyan believes that music can change the world. She repeatedly and steadfastly repeats this claim. She hopes that the recital will help.

"With music we can build understanding because music is the universal language," Vanesyan said. "Especially nowadays when we have wars and conflicts and misunderstandings. Something is wrong in the world. But music can change the world."

Vanesyan grew up in Yarevan, Armenia, located North of Iran, South of Georgia and East of Turkey. Armenia was part of the Soviet Union from the end of World War II to 1991.

In 2002, Vanesyan came to the United States aided by the Edward Muskie Fellowship, and received her masters from Ball State. After returning to Armenia for two years to teach at Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory, where Vanesyan received her bachelors degree, she returned to Ball State to pursue her doctorate in piano performance.

This is Vanesyan's 24th solo performance. Arutunian's pieces have never been performed in Muncie.

Vanesyan said her performance will help Muncie citizens embrace her culture like her fellow students did five years ago.

"We all are the same," she said. "Sometimes we speak the same language, but we don't understand each other. In any case music will unite them all."

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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