Armenian culture thrives at AYF Zartonk Open Mic Night

Armenian culture thrives at AYF Zartonk Open Mic Night

Crescenta Valley, Calif.— On March 4, the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Crescenta Valley “Zartonk” Chapter hosted its annual Open Mic Night, an open forum for the community to gather and express themselves artistically, emotionally, and intellectually, at the Crescenta Valley Armenian Center.

“Open Mic is an ongoing tradition since 2006, combining outstanding poets, singers, comedians, dancers, and artists for one night to enjoy and embrace the beauty of the arts and culture in our community,” said Nairi Dulgarian, AYF “Zartonk” Chapter member and chair of the Open Mic Night planning committee.
The much-anticipated event had a capacity crowd with only standing room. The evening, which was free of charge and open to the public, featured more than ten performances, including a wide variety of poets, singers, actors, and comedians in the Armenian-American community.

Melinda Gevorgian started off the program with a rendition of Kilikia, followed by a young duduk player named Haik Davtyan. Singer-songwriter Jeremy Rodda then performed a few original songs, Vazgen Barsegian performed music using several Armenian folk instruments, and Gayaneh Gharamanian moved the crowd with Armenian spoken word. A courageous ten-year-old named Karina volunteered to sing and was followed by arguably the event’s most unique performance, a “poi spinning” light show by Alex Minassians.

Throughout the evening guests observed live artist, Annie Magdesyan, as well as outdoor art display produced by local young artists Preny Alaverdian and Lori Kassabian.

“I thought I would be nervous about people watching me paint, but it turned out to be fun and exciting to see the crowd’s reactions and to hear all the positive comments on my artwork,” said Magdesyan, whose work was auctioned off at the end of the evening.

After intermission, the crowd was entertained by Bombagranate, a two person Armenian language improvisational comedy act comprised of Michael Srourian and Armen Keleshian.

“Open Mic Night is a great opportunity for people to be expressive musically and creatively, and it allows viewers and participants to bond through different kinds of art,” said Talar Ourfalian who performed an original song.

Local musicians Raffi Semerjian and percussionist Vartan Duvenjian performed English renditions of famous revolutionary folk songs. Talar Kakilian and Yeva Papayan Yeganyan sang several originals and covers.

“As an ensemble we aim to reinvigorate ethnographic Armenian cultural heritage within the diaspora and beyond,” said Alex Avaneszadeh, a member of both AYF “Zartonk” and the Aya Ensemble, which closed out the evening performing Armenian folk music and dance.

AYF “Zartonk” Chapter members sold homemade food and drinks to the attendees to benefit the AYF’s ‘With Our Soldiers’ campaign, which originally launched in 2012 and was restarted in the aftermath of the Four Day War with the aim of providing assistance to the families of the fallen soldiers. To learn more about the ‘With Our Soldiers’ campaign or to make a donation today, you can visit

“The chapter believes that events like these instill and support Armenian culture among today’s youth by providing them with a comfortable environment to experiment and share their interpretations of our heritage,” said Daron Markarian, chairperson of the AYF “Zartonk” Chapter.

Attendees were encouraged to use the hashtag #ZartonkOpenMic to post about the event.

To learn more about the AYF Crescenta Valley “Zartonk” Chapter, follow them on Facebook or email [email protected]. Video footage from the evening and performances will be uploaded to the Zartonk Facebook page and the official Armenian Youth Federation page.

Founded in 1933 with organizational structures in over seventeen regions around the world and a legacy of over eighty years of community involvement, the Armenian Youth Federation is the largest and most influential Armenian-American youth organization in the world, working to advance the social, political, educational, and cultural awareness of Armenian youth.

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