Good Evening Revered Clergy, Honorable Guests, AACCWD Central Council & Assembly Members, guests, and my dear faithful!

Can you believe it!? We’re finally in Las Vegas.

I’d like to start my remarks off firstly by thanking Hayr Sasoon for all his arduous leadership and support in all our preparations leading up to this very last minute.\

I would like to recognize the many efforts of the ladies society for tonight’s festivities, led by Angela Topalian.

I would like to recognize a good friend of the AACCWD and our 2017 Assembly Chair, Deacon Doctor Sarkis Mesrobian.

Finally, I would like to thank a woman who has accomplished a remarkable job in gathering us all this evening and ensuring that every detail was met with such class and grace, my colleague and confidant, Ms. Lucy Tashjian.

Finally, I would like to thank you. You have travelled, whether it be 5 or 500 miles to be here with us this weekend and you my dear faithful are the championing heroes of our organization and our Armenian Apostolic Church.

The days slipped by as we prepared our first ever three-day convention and assembly in the history of our humble organization. For those of you who are new members of the AACCWD or are joining us for the first time tonight, let me please briefly explain the purpose of our organization.

The Association of Armenian Church Choirs, AACCWD for short, was established in 2003, and was tasked with four core objectives:

  • to promote the teaching of sacred music;
  • to encourage choirs to learn and adhere to the liturgical rites, cannons, and
  • doctrines of the Armenian Church and to promote their faithful practice;
  • to assist choirs within our Diocese to develop their local organization and
  • activities;
  • and, finally, to promote the appreciation and use of Armenian Music.

Two years ago, at our prior assembly in Burbank, CA, you elected me as your Chairman of this wonderful association. It has been my personal goal to bring this organization to new heights under my tenure. Over the past two years:

  • We have written and implemented a Christian Education Council Music Curriculum that debuts on a weekly basis in classrooms all over the Western Diocese.
  • We have launched two sustainable music scholarships. The first being the Father Arshag Khatchadourian Music Scholarship Fund that is open to all potential applicants. The second being, Remembrance in Music Scholarship Fund that is open to all individuals who are a descendant of a fallen armed services hero.
  • We have integrated a sacred and secular music curriculum for the past two years at HyeCamp. Which educates hundreds of young campers, that may be involved with the church only on a limited basis, but our goal is to wet their appetite so that they may further extend their research on their own.
  • I have travelled over 8000 miles on behalf of the AACCWD in promoting not only our mission but ensuring that every visit to our parishes is one that creates formidable bonds for many years to come by weaving the thread of scared music one note at a time.
  • We have held masterclasses and regional meetings to help further enhance our educational narrative amongst our choir members. Tonight, we are honored to have with us, once again, Very Reverend Father Daniel Findikyan of the Eastern Diocese.
  • We have enhanced and revitalized our digital sacred music library that hosts hundreds of pages of sheet music as well as every variable hymn that coincides with our liturgical calendar year.

A common theme you may have noticed, is that all my efforts surrounding my tenure, has been to instill and further enhance education as a core component of the AACCWD. In order for us to truly serve as a distinct body of the Diocese in all matters of sacred music, we must first ensure that our choir members, regardless of distance, have the tools they need to further enhance their professional or volunteer experience at their local parishes. That is why tonight I am proud to announce my candidacy as Chairman of the AACCWD so that I may continue to build upon the groundwork of these past two years.

10 years ago, this past June, marked a personal decade of public service to many educational governmental organizations for myself.

The very essence of educating a child or adult is woven into the very fiber of my being. 10 years ago, my mentor, friend, and prior-Principal selected me to serve as a Coordinator at William Howard Taft High School in Los Angeles, CA.

I had just started, what normally is a tenured position, as a very young adult in a very experienced industry. Every day during my first six months were excruciatingly difficult. What was once my old high school stomping grounds, became a 64-acre campus that I had to serve in all aspects of education, administration, and organization. I tirelessly worked night after night to catch-up with the responsibilities and efforts of my position.

It was not easy…..It however, made me who I am today.

During my tenure with the Los Angeles Unified School District, I had the distinct pleasure to serve with several presidential administrations as well as local/state officials. The very first program I was assigned to, was to co-chair a student exchange program with students from South Korea. We developed a rigorous curriculum coupled with tedious housing and living accommodations for young students who would be leaving their loved ones to travel to a foreign country, to further enhance their education and cultural palette. The program completed by being a resounding success, where my efforts were championed not only by the Prime Minister of South Korea himself, but, the self-satisfaction of being a part of something that would make a lasting effort for these children.

Later, working for a diverse secondary school that had well over 3000 students with multi-ethnic backgrounds, we broke the barrier of race and ethnic relations to create a formidable environment of peace and opportunity. A safe space dedicated to comradery and education.

This program led to a visit by Queen Rania of Jordan, who herself, championed such efforts, and challenged others across the globe to follow in our steps.

So my dear friends, why education?

No matter what age we are, we have the ability to further expand our educational palate. Education requires devotion, interest, passion, and time. Education envelops individuals of various backgrounds, identities, sexes, and religion for one common theme: to further enhance the betterment of our societies by giving them the resources to strive to new heights.

You today, are a testament to my remarks. You have made the effort to travel to further your educational needs not only for your betterment, but, for your Armenian Apostolic Church. You, my dear faithful, have proven to be the pillars of our sacred music society.

Tomorrow, we will host lectures and workshops beginning at 10AM within the sanctuary where we will visit topics ranging from sacred music history, vocal technique, to defining what is the Divine Liturgy.  It will certainly be a historic day for our organization as we collectively gather to celebrate our Armenian Apostolic Church and our organization.

Just as we have driven this organization to new heights, it is only important to reflect upon those individuals that were with us at the very beginning. They were the ones who cast the first steps in bettering our Diocese and her ventures into sacred music. Many of my dear friends here tonight have served on behalf of the AACCWD throughout the years.

However, one individual here tonight, has been a loving servant of God, a driving champion for the AACCWD, and a remarkable priest for his communities. Tonight, I have the distinct pleasure of honoring, Father Nareg Matarian for his countless years of support and dedication to the Armenian Apostolic Church & AACCWD.

Father Nareg began his education studies in 1966 when he was first admitted to the Romanos Melikian Conservatory in Yerevan, Armenia.  In January 1969, he was married to Miss Paitsar Yotnaghperian and soon after that he was drafted to the Soviet Army to serve his country.

In 1978 he entered the Armenian Academia and performed under the direction of conductor Hovhannes Chekidjian.  In September 1979 he was admitted to The Holy Seminary of Etchmiadzin in Armenia, and, in February 1980, he was ordained priest and named Father Nareg Matarian by the permission of The Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians, His Holiness Vazken I.  From 1980 to 1992 Fr. Nareg served in The Holy See of Etchmiadzin in various religious positions.

In 1992 Fr. Nareg came to Los Angeles as a visiting clergyman. Upon permission of Primate Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian of the Western Diocese, he was assigned as a parish priest to The Saint Sarkis Armenian Church of East Los Angeles from March 1995 to May 2009.  In 2012, under the direction of Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, he travelled to Las Vegas where he continued to serve as parish priest till 2015.

Father Nareg, is one of the most decent and kind-headed individuals you will ever come to know. He has truly followed a life of love, kindness, and compassions. He has devoted his heart and soul to the communities he has served to further enrich them. He truly follows the path of Christ and his teachings.

I remember, years ago, when the Saint Peter Church Choir travelled to Las Vegas to celebrate the Divine Liturgy.

While playing the organ for services, I was asked to sing the hymn, “Hureshdagayin”.

As I began to sing the first couple measures of this sacred hymn, I felt a presence while singing that song that I had never experienced before.

It felt as if every notion of life as I know it, stood still while I sang this hymn. To tell you the truth, it was inspiring and chilling at the same time. That song, that day, made me fall in love with our sacred music. It changed my outlook and my drive to our sacred music and my role in preserving and further promoting them.

That happened right here in Las Vegas, Nevada.

So, it is only fitting that I return back to where it all truly started, and invite our friend Der Nareg Matarian to accept this award on behalf of the Association of Armenian Church Choirs.

Thank you.

May God Bless You & May God Bless the Armenian Apostolic Church!