By Ani Gasbaryan

Of Yerevan’s 25 music and art schools, the Malatia Art School was the only one not named after a famed artist. That changed on February 13, 2018, when the Yerevan Council of Elders approved a proposal to rename the venerable institution after the late Konstantin Orbelyan. A world-renowned pianist, composer, and conductor of the State Pops Orchestra of Armenia, Orbelyan held the prestigious titles of People’s Artist of USSR and People’s Artist of the Republic of Armenia. He passed away in 2014.

Although the newly renamed Konstantin Orbelyan Art School will be officially inaugurated in June of this year, with a grand opening ceremony and recital at the Komitas Chamber Music Hall, it is already operating under its new name — as proudly indicated by a banner placed near the entrance of the campus. On March 26, the renamed school held its maiden public event, in celebration of World Theater Day. Featuring RA Honored Artist Evelina Shahiryan and her daughter, Naira Shahiryan, both actresses, the event comprised an extraordinary theatrical presentation which carried classical and modern themes, as well as a spirited dhol performance. The event concluded with a candid conversation with the actresses.

The Malatia Art School was founded in 1972 as a music school. However, in 1999, it was transformed into a full-fledged art school, complete with dance, fine-arts, and theater departments, in response to growing popular demand for a significantly expanded curriculum. Today, rechristened Konstantin Orbelyan Art School, the beloved institution has around 300 students and 53 staff members.

Arina Manukyan has been working at the school since 1990, and has served as its vice principal since 1997. Full of vigor and as ever passionate about artistic excellence, she is widely regarded as the heart and soul of the school. Manukyan says the idea of renaming the campus after Konstantin Orbelyan came to her following the death of the famous musician. In fact, on the very day that Orbelyan’s funeral was held, she approached his nephew, Constantine Orbelian, the General and Artistic Director of the Yerevan Opera House, to discuss her proposal of renaming the school.

As Manukyan recalls, Maestro Orbelian absolutely loved the idea and promised to visit the school within days. “To be honest, I was afraid that the maestro wouldn’t come and he would forget about our proposal,” she says. “But a few days later, he called and came in. At that time, our school wasn’t renovated yet. It just didn’t look good. And I thought he would probably regret that he had agreed to the name change. However, not only did he reaffirm his approval, but was very excited about the initiative.”

Tatevik Hambardzumyan, the school’s principal, believes the renaming of the campus is important not only in terms of paying tribute to a legendary musician, but since it’s essential to have a suitable name in which the school can take pride.

“The name ‘Malatia’ didn’t really match the spirit and stature of an art school,” Manukyan says. “We have so many talented, wonderful students who distinguish themselves by winning local and international competitions. Whether at such events or on a daily basis, we felt embarrassed by our school’s old name, which many people associate with the Malatia Market in Yerevan. Today, therefore, it is an honor for us to carry the name of the great composer, conductor, and musician Konstantin Orbelyan.”

Commenting on the renaming of the school, Maestro Orbelian says, “My late uncle, Konstantin Orbelyan, is celebrated as one of the giants of contemporary Armenian music. He was also an outstanding mentor, and helped cultivate the talents of generations of musicians. So it’s with enormous delight and a sense of profound gratitude that I welcome the renaming of the school after my uncle. His legacy will live on in not just an array of beautiful recordings and the memories of audiences, but the name of a marvelous art school that stands as one of Yerevan’s cultural gems.”

In September of this year, the school will also unveil Konstantin Orbelyan’s bust on the grounds of the campus

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