At Keyboard Armenian series, Nara Avetisyan returns to Fresno as a leading lady

Nara Avetisyan performs Feb. 28 at Fresno State.

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.

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

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