On September 20, Gyumri’s Octet Music School finally opened its brand new doors. This marked the culmination of concerted efforts by major American-Armenian philanthropists and FAR benefactors Mr. and Mrs. Edward and Janet Mardigian, as well as Jon Dee’s internationally renowned “Do Something” organization, the “Mediamax” news agency, VivaCell-MTS and acclaimed rock stars Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, and Geoff Downes of Yes/Asia, among other benefactors. The new building will replace the cramped aluminum trailers that had served as classrooms since Gyumri was devastated by an earthquake 25 years ago.

In just 11 months, the Kanaka” Construction Company has built a two-story marvelous building made of tufa to replace the cramped aluminum trailers that had served as classrooms since Gyumri was devastated by an earthquake 25 years ago. The new building has all the conditions for the further development of education, including bright classrooms, a library, a concert hall, and an outdoor amphitheater. Many valuable instruments that have been donated by Canadian Tim Irving and other individuals have already made it to the school, and a new grand piano is on its way.

Among the guests at the opening ceremony were President of the Republic of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan, Armenia’s Minister of Culture Hasmik Poghosyan, members of the FAR Board of Directors, as well as the governor of the Shirak region and the mayor of Gyumri, and other public officials and artists.  One guest, the Ambassador of Great Britain to the Republic of Armenia Jonathan Aves, did not come empty-handed: he presented an audio-system to the students.

In his opening remarks, His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), expressed his gratitude for this wonderful present for the children of Gyumri on the eve of Independence Day of Armenia and blessed all the participants of the project.  He said a prayer for Armenia’s welfare and prosperity.

“Mediamax” director Ara Tadevosyan expressed his special thanks to Ian Gillan and Jon Dee for their love and devotion to the people of Armenia. Jon Dee couldn’t restrain his tears when he recalled the hardships suffered by the people and the scenes that had followed the earthquake. He said, “‘Rock Aid Armenia’ project started in a very sad moment, but ended with a very happy occasion.” He also expressed his gratitude to the world-famous rock stars for being with the project for all these 24 years.

Grant Mardigian didn’t hide his admiration for this wonderful event: “We’re happy that the children now have the opportunity to study and improve,” he said.

Ian Gillan, also quite moved, could not find words to express his feelings. He pointed out that the construction of the new building symbolizes a musical rebirth in Gyumri and wished that the kids enjoyed it. He also expressed hope that the school will give many virtuoso musicians to the world.

The director of the Octet Music School Harutyun Asatryan, had prepared a surprise for Ian Gillan: his portrait by Samvel Lachikyan, an honored artist of the Republic of Armenia. The school orchestra had planned a special treat, as well: a marvelous performance for the enthusiastic audience.

To close the ceremony, the youth from the community, as well as President Sargsyan, Jon Dee, and other special guests, planted trees in the schoolyard that had been kindly donated by the Armenia Tree Project  to green the site of the reborn music school.