Professors find themselves through music

By Dorany Pineda

East Los Angeles College professors Lucy Nargizyan and Samvel Chilingarian were brought together by music.

Their shared interest in people and fascination with the multifaceted nature of music and all its inner workings are the reasons they began teaching.

“Uplifting students, seeing them succeed, and helping them transform and grow as musicians and as people (is one of the most rewarding things about teaching),” Chilingarian said .

Nargizyan’s passion for teaching is very similar.

“I love people and I love to see growth and achievement in my students. Connecting with them is one of the biggest satisfactions,” Nargizyan said.

In spite of the commongroundparallels of their shared love of music and teaching, their inceptions into the musical world were starkly different.

At the age of five, in what was then Armenia under the Soviet Union, Chilingarian’s parents jointly decided that he would grow up to be a musician, or that they would make an attempt at it.

For the next couple of years, he studied and practiced the piano arduously for a difficult, government-run music exam in which his aptitude would be tested.

It involved an evaluation of his hearing, his rhythm, his ability to distinguish the different notes in a piece of music and more.

Although he proved his abilities and skills, the piano, his first fascination and first love, was not the instrument assigned to him.

Instead, his abnormally long pinky and his perfect pitch were found to be better-suited for the violin. Thus began a lifelong relationship with the stringed instrument.

“I took refuge in music. It was an important way for me to express myself and cope with my parents’ divorce,” said Chilingarian.

After receiving a bachelor’s and masters degree in music from California State University, Northridge and the University of Missouri–Kansas City, respectively, Chilingarian continued his studies in authentic performance and conducting in Vienna, Austria.

He returned to the United States years later with an interest to help young, aspiring musicians.

He is now the Artistic Director and conductor of Verdugo Young Musicians Association and frequently collaborates with the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Youth Orchestra.

Nargizyan’s interest in music was more directly a consequence of her environment.

Classical music was a big part of the culture in Moscow, Russia, where she lived until she emigrated to the United States at the age of 21.

Her father was an avid classical music fan and the building she lived in as a child was largely populated by musicians. Inspired by the artists surrounding her, Lucy fought hard against her parents’ wishes that she be a doctor, because they thought that studying music was impractical. Nonetheless, her passion for music had been cemented.

“(The) piano was my first love. It has so many colors and was very important for my soul,” Nargizyan said.

When she was older, she went on to pursue a Bachelor’s of Music in Piano Performance from Moscow State Music College, a Master’s of Music Degree and a Doctorate Degree in Piano Performance from the University of Southern California.

She also won numerous awards and competitions including the USC Concerto Competition, the Jane Kenneth Memorial Scholarship and the Peninsula Young Artists International Festival, and has travelled extensively as a soloist, chamber musician and accompanist.

As a couple, Nargizyan and Chilingarian make up two out of the three members of the Elixir Piano Trio, which won the Most Distinguished Musician Award at the 2005 IBLA International Competition in Italy.

Their passion for music propels their love for teaching and they have done the latter so well that both Nargizyan and Chilingarian have had many of their students go on to win local and state competitions and have transferred to some of the most prestigious music schools in the country.

“It is really difficult to make a living from playing music. It isn’t practical. But if you have the passion for it, got for it! Be the best that you can be and be flexible,” Nargizyan advises to all aspiring musicians.

Chilingarian also had some advice to offer students in pursuit of a music career.

“Believe in yourself first,” he said. Chilingarian went on to quote Henry Ford: “‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.’”

Check out some of Nargizyan’s and Chilingarian’s students performing at the S2 Recital Hall for free with other ELAC musicians at these upcoming student music performances: piano recital on May 16 at noon, string recital on May 19 at 5 p.m. and the ELAC Student Concert on May 26 at 8 p.m.

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