Transcript of Sevag Derderian’s Speech to the Diocesan Assembly
Friday, May 5, 2017

Your Eminence, Reverend Clergy, Honorable Delagates, Ladies and Gentlemen –
I rise today to speak as Chairman of the Association of Armenian Church Choirs. Our association 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.

During our 2015 AACC Assembly, the baton of leadership was passed to me by assembly delegates. Truthfully, the position was not one that I sought. But, as I stand before you today, I can say that since being granted the title of “Chairman,” I have come to cherish the organization and all the responsibilities that come with it. Often times, the most unexpected things in our lives can inspire and change who we are and what we strive to become. My role as Chairman, is one of them.

I have been privileged to hold leadership positions that have varied from public schools, government agencies, and United States presidential campaigns. My first boss and mentor, Sharon Thomas, then-principal of William Howard Taft High School, instilled in me the work values and ethics that I embody within my daily life today. She taught me the difference of being a leader and driving leadership – that change not only comes from what we seek but what we create. The driving force for betterment comes from our constant persistence and desire to keep going. To always drive innovation in every task we do.

Humility, honesty, and passion are the values of what drives my leadership of this humble organization.

Choirs are one of the most miraculous bodies of each and every church. They bring together new and old friends, guests and strangers and turn them all into a family. A family that cares, loves, and supports each member. They celebrate auspicious occasions. They grieve and console when needed. They build individuals to be more caring then ever imaginable.

They truly, follow the path set by Christ > they exude love.

I have been fortunate to grow up from an early age in a family that appreciates music. I remember as a young child ……..who should have been sleeping at night……listening to my mother and her fellow choir members practice for cultural concerts under the leadership of Anna Nshanian at our family home through the late hours of the evening. Those melodies have stayed with me to this very day. The memory of my first solo at church as a young boy-soprano remains prevalent to the present day, as I wish I can hit those notes as a baritone.

The joy of singing together, is one that I cannot put into words.

The harmonic balance of our sacred melodies, the subconscious awareness of your fellow singers breathing in unison, the direction of your conductor, the sweet accompaniment of the organist, and finally, the single voice that exudes into the congregation is unparalleled to any creation. I do believe , that the gift of music, was God’s gift to us mortals. A piece of heaven that illuminates our lives in the most angelic and simplest manner. The art of singing.

Every Sunday, we hear the voices of our choirs resound profoundly within the walls of our sanctuaries. Whether a choir be comprised of many or few, it is the notes set forth by our Church that are heard far and wide. Quality is often times greater than the quantity we seek.

I speak today, to encourage your activism and support of our church choirs. We have undergone the test of time and each time have risen stronger than ever before. The church choir needs your support.

Our organization has undergone some vast changes. As times changed, so have we.

I am proud to say that our organization is now the home of a vast digital music library that can be accessed through our website. Our online library holds a collection of chants of the Divine Liturgy as well as variable sheet music, hymns, and feast music.

We were the driving force of a successful new music curriculum that debuted during our 2016 visit to HyeCamp. Our interaction with those young campers was fun, instructional, and memorable. The hills were truly alive with the sound of music.

Our June 2016 master class featuring Fr. Daniel Findikyan of the Eastern Diocese, reminded us about the integral role of the church choir within the Divine Liturgy.

As I stand before you here today, we are in the process of launching our newly established Father Arshag Khatchadourian music scholarship fund in the Fall of 2017. This scholarship needs the support of your parishes and parishioners. Any music major student can apply, and be considered for this program. Students will play an integral role in the planning of our new generation of church choirs. They will be assigned to parishes, where the Divine Liturgy and all of its musical components will be taught by an experienced and trained conductor, organist, or vocal sectionalist.

Tomorrow, I will be proposing a music curriculum to the Christian Education Council that will be developed by a team of colleagues that consist of myself, Los Angeles Unified School District educators, California State University professors, musicologists, and church choir members. It is our goal that by the time a Sunday School student graduates, they would have learned a summary overview of basic music theory and harmony as well as the core chants of the Divine Liturgy.

We have been tasked with changing the status quo and I assure you today, that the status quo has been changed for the better. The words of my mentor guide me daily as I seek to strive to new heights to better assist our Armenian Church and her people.

Change is the bedrock of what can provide fruitful outcomes to a new generation of individuals. I stand before you, asking for your support when it comes to this.

I need your support to ensure that we do not stop the progress we have made. I need your parish to become more involved with our organization and to break barriers.

The possibilities of our collective efforts are endless.

Drive change, encourage the youth, support your church choir, invest in our master class offerings and music education programs. Contribute to our scholarship fund so that we may prepare the next generation of talented musicians.

Strive to do better.

In a few weeks, I will begin touring all our parishes and stand ready to support your church choir’s needs. My tour will conclude in November at our Association’s Convention & Assembly in Las Vegas, Nevada. Where I hope to see not only yourselves, your delegates, but also community members who would like to celebrate the music of the Armenian Church through lectures, master classes, and workshops.

As I visit each church, I will celebrate the Divine Liturgy with your Church Choir. Additionally, I request to deliver a few short words before your homily to the parishioners, and meet with your entire choir after services. The people of this Diocese voted for a revitalization of their church choirs. We stand ready to assume the role that you asked for.

I ask you today, do I have your support?

Finally, as a new chapter begins in the life of the Association, we must always remember to do good in this world and in our church. After all, all this is for our community, parishioners, children, our future, and our God. The words of the late John Wesley, resonate stronger than ever before.

‘Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

May God Bless you and the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Thank you.