At Keyboard Armenian series, Nara Avetisyan returns to Fresno as a leading lady
The Philip Lorenz International Keyboard Concerts series and the Fresno State Armenian Studies Program welcomes to its Young Armenian Talent Series a wonderful pianist: Nara Avetisyan. She performs at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28, at the Fresno State Concert Hall. She took time from her busy travel and rehearsal schedule to answer a few questions via email:
Q: When you were growing up in Armenia, did you ever hear about Fresno? If so, did you wonder what it was like?
A: Yes, I heard of Fresno when I was very young. Armenia has a rich history and it pushed Armenians to spread around the world; they built a big community in California. Fresno was home for one of the most prominent Armenian authors, William Saroyan. Also, the first Armenian church in California was built in Fresno. So I had some knowledge about Fresno.
Q: Have you ever been to Fresno before?
A: I visited Fresno during my first trip to the U.S. when I was 15. I was part of the touring musicians, traveling from the east coast to the west coast. The concerts were organized by the Armenian organization YerazArt, which supports young Armenian musicians. I remember we went for a hike and saw the beautiful Yosemite. I was fascinated by the nature in Fresno.
Q: You came to the United States for your higher education, including the Cleveland Institute of Music and now the State University of New York at Stony Brook. How big of a culture shock was it?
A: I don’t think moving to the U.S. was a cultural shock for me. I always traveled a lot for concerts and competitions, and was exposed to various cultures from an early age. It was not easy though, since it was the first time away from home for a longer period and I had to adapt to the new place and school. But I was lucky to have met really amazing people who I can call friends for life.
Q: You’ve done a lot of school! Do you ever get tired of studying?
A: I am still in school and yes, I cannot wait to finish, hopefully very soon. I have two bachelor’s degrees, a double master’s degree, and I am currently pursuing my DMA degree. It has been an enriching and inspiring journey, but it is becoming harder to juggle between many hours of teaching and performances.
Q: Tell us about your Fresno concert. How did you decide on the program?
A: I had the idea of a stylistically well-balanced program. I wanted to include as many styles as possible. So I have baroque, romantic and contemporary selections. Each of the pieces I find quite unique. I will open the concert with Handel’s Suite N. 3 in D minor. I don’t think it is performed too often, or as often as Bach’s partitas or suites, so I thought it would be a nice idea to introduce it to those who haven’t heard it yet, or remind it to those who haven’t heard it in a while. Then I will play one of my favorite pieces called El Amor y la Muerte, from the Goyescas written by Granados. I love how colorful, dramatic and passionate the piece is. I will finish the first half with the sonata written by The wonderful Armenian composer Vago Zakaryan. (I will get back to this in the next question). I made a change in the second half of the recital replacing Prokofiev’s 8th sonata with Schumann’s Kreisleriana, which has a very deep personal meaning for me and I don’t think I will ever stop playing it. I will end the concert with Arno Babadjanian’s Poem. I hope the audience enjoys the program.
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Q: Could you talk specifically about the Zakarian sonata?
A: Back to Zakaryan’s sonata. Last year was the first time I heard the piece. I was looking for a contemporary piece written after 1970s, preferably by an Armenian composer for one of my recitals. Vago Zakaryan is a well-known composer in Armenia and Europe, and I wanted to bring his music to my New York audience. I am so honored that I can introduce such a great composer in Fresno as well. Zakaryan’s Sonata is fresh and exciting, full of contrasts and depth. I am looking to performing his other pieces in the future.
Q: What is one thing you can tell us about yourself that doesn’t have anything to do with pianos or music?
A: Unfortunately, the time is so limited between school, work and practicing, that I haven’t been able to do much outside the said setting. However, I enjoy really long walks. On a good day I leave home and walk for hours and hours, in a way, charging my inner battery. I love architecture, so I love to take pictures of buildings that catch my eye and find out the history behind them. That leads to the love for museums, and New York is a great place to be for those activities. I enjoy reading, especially sociocultural literature and biographies. Even though I am more of an introvert, spending time with my friends is one of my favorite pastimes.
Q: Anything you’d like to add?
A: I want to express my gratitude to the Fresno community, especially Andreas Werz, for inviting me to perform in the Philip Lorenz International Keyboard Concerts.