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Ruben Hakhverdayan and a band member listen 
as young Raphael plays on the piano.

Ruben Hakhverdyan Trio plays at ‘My Way’ Children’s Center

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
YEREVAN, JANUARY 21, 2021 –  One can always find reason to celebrate. No matter how difficult the last year was for Armenians, with the suffering caused by the COVID pandemic and the Artsakh war, Christmas brought with it a spirit of hope for a better future. And that is something to celebrate.

At My Way Socio-Rehabilitation Day Care Center for Children and Teenagers with Autism, children, parents, guests, teachers and staff therapists joined in the newly equipped multi-functional performance hall for a live concert on December 25. The My Way center, located in Yerevan, provides therapy, education and vocational training in its two large, newly renovated buildings. Music and musical therapy play a central role in the educational and social process.

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Ruben Hakhverdyan with the center’s therapists

The idea for a special concert came from one of the trained music therapists, Nara Sargsyan, who organized the guest performers. Ruben Hakhverdyan is a poet, lyricist, and guitarist who performs his own compositions as well as traditional pieces. Joined by a cellist and accordion player, as well as the trio’s musical technician — who is also a pianist — they presented songs that the adults had grown up with, and that the children and young adults also knew very well, having learned them a few years ago from a special Ladybird edition of songs by Hakhverdyan “for children from 0 to 100 years old….“ The musicians were delighted to discover that their audience could sing along, as most of them knew the lyrics and melodies by heart, with all the nuances and musical shifts. Among the pieces presented were Ete Imanayi, Navak and Dzyun.

Following the performance, the guest musicians put away their instruments, and the audience took over. Music therapist Marina Meliqsteyan provided the piano accompaniment and the teenagers and staff broke into song. Soon the professionals joined in. One young man, Raphael, son of board member and co-founder Sona Petrosyan, displayed his remarkable talent on the piano. He performed works by Ray Charles, Johnny Mandel and Aznavour, which inspired a band member to join pianist Marina in a four-hand version of Yerevan (music by Artem Ayvazyan). Carried away by the music, Raphael invited his favorite therapist to dance, and at the end the students had taken over the stage to sing.

Outside guests who had come to visit several centers for children with special needs were astonished by the facilities and by the capabilities displayed by the youngsters, not only in music, but in the arts and crafts they had produced and put on display.