Rich Musical Heritage Settles in Marblehead

By Yulia Zhorov

Published April 18, 2016, issue of April 14, 2016.
Jasmin Atabekyan will appear in a concert on May 21 at the Modern Museum of Renaissance in Somerville.
Jasmin Atabekyan will appear in a concert on May 21 at the Modern Museum of Renaissance in Somerville.

Jasmin Atabekyan, an accomplished Armenian-Greek pianist, is drawn to water – which is why she chose to relocate to Marblehead, whose shores remind her of Thessaloniki, where she lived and worked for 10 years before moving to America.

“I fell in love with this quiet and picturesque town, and being able to live close to Boston and its opulent musical and cultural life is a wish come true,” said Atabekyan, a winner of several International Piano competitions, whose performing and teaching career spans over 20 years, two continents and many countries.

Atabekyan, her husband Vahag Gasparyan, a professional classical guitarist, and their children, Emily and Daniel, both violin players, moved from Greece to America last fall after they were awarded a special Visa for individuals with extraordinary abilities or achievements in sciences, arts, education, business or athletics.

In less than six months, Atabekyan has become well integrated into local concert life, and her calendar is filled with upcoming performances, including one at the Massachusetts State House on April 22, where she will appear with the Zangakner Performing Arts Ensemble and her 14-year-old daughter, Emily Gasparyan, an aspiring violinist.

“I was surrounded with music when I was growing up, but I did not want to play piano and was resisting my parents for sending me to a musical school,” explained Atabekyan, who was born in Armenia to Greek-Armenian parents, both physicists, and began her piano lessons at age 8. “My real passion for music did not happen until I was about 15. I remember that over one summer, I listened to many of Beethoven’s sonatas, and for the first time in my life, that music shook me to my core,” she said. “I realized that I want to be in music, to be a professional musician.” Atabekyan went on to graduate from the Specialized Youth Music School, earned her Masters degree and Ph.D., both in music and piano performance, from the Komitas State Conservatory in Yerevan.

Jasmin has appeared in many concert halls and other venues in Yerevan, Thessaloniki, Paris, Crete, Moscow and Austria, and received praise from musical professionals while winning prestigious international musical competitions. Soon after arriving in America, Atabekyan was invited to play at the Steinert & Sons Performance Hall in Boston alongside her daughter. Their performance was hailed by Massachusetts Chapter President of American women composers Diane Goolkasian Rahbee, who wrote, “Hearing mother and daughter make music together was a very special and meaningful experience for a most appreciative audience.”

One of the facts of life here that pleases Atabekyan about her new country is the way people respond to her music. “Performing here is less stressful, because I feel that people who come to your concerts want to enjoy the music and not to critique your technique or musicality. I love this very diverse and dynamic audience, it’s the biggest melting pot I’ve ever experienced.”

Atabekyan likes to perform at retirement homes and nursing centers. “I like to communicate music to elderly people… They genuinely appreciate and enjoy it, and we are connecting and healing through music.” Recently, Jasmin organized a series of lectures/concerts at the Bertram House, an assisted living facility in Swampscott, where she delivers presentations about a composer or a certain musical style or period, and plays corresponding musical pieces to residents.

Sometimes, Jasmin enlists her husband, Vahag, and their children to perform together as the Gasparyan Family Quartet. Right now, this musical and talented family is preparing a concert to celebrate World Day for Cultural Diversity. The concert will take place at the Modern Museum of Renaissance in Somerville on May 21, with the musical program ranging from Russian, Jewish, American, Greek, Armenian, Hungarian, Irish music, classical and folk compositions. “I believe in the importance of intercultural dialogue, diversity and inclusion, especially these days with political unrest in Europe and the USA,” said Atabekyan, who speaks four languages, Russian, Armenian, Greek and English.

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