Founded in 1994 in Los Angeles–the Shushi Music School Society aims to support the Daniel Ghazaryan School located in Shushi–in the heart of Mountainous Karabagh Republic.
Following years of Azeri occupation and the ensuing depopulation of Shushi–the institution–with a current student body of 100–aims to enable future generations to use their superior background in music to contribute to the much needed cultural reawakening and strengthening of the ancient city of Shushi.
To date–the Shushi Music School Society has accomplished much–thanks to the generous contributions of many individuals and organizations in the community. Some of these accomplishmen’s include the complete renovation of the main building of the school where instruction and performances take place. The children can thus pursue their education in an environment that is conducive to student learning. The construction of a concert Hall within this main building was also completed this past May.
Aside from the vast physical improvemen’s to the campus–a basketball court with a sitting capacity of 150 and a soccer field accommodating 200 spectators were built since 2003. These facilities are truly unique amidst an area where rubbles are a constant reminder of the devastation caused by the war and were constructed not only for the students of Daniel Ghazaryan–but also for the children of Shushi and its neighboring villages. An outdoor playground will also be completed by summer of 2006.
In 2004–a group of five volunteers from the Los Angeles area ran a three day long summer basketball camp at Daniel Ghazaryan for the children of Shushi and Stepanakert.
The camp generated so much enthusiasm amongst the camp attendees and the volunteers that the Shushi Music School Society Board of Directors decided to organize a six day long Summer Camp on the school premises from July 15 to July 21 2005.
A total of 23 volunteers from Los Angeles–mostly college students–lead the various programs for over 70 camp participants. The travel expenses of many of the student volunteers were subsidized thanks to various individuals and businesses in Los Angeles.
Daily activities at the camp included clinics and games in basketball–volleyball and soccer–and classes in English language–computers–arts and crafts–and dance. Moreover–to educate the camp attendees on important health issues–lectures were presented on the harmful effects of tobacco and smoking and the importance of maintaining proper oral hygiene.
Following an opening ceremony–various teams from Shushi and Stepanankert also competed in basketball and soccer tournamen’s. The winning teams were presented with trophies and all camp participants received the official Summer Camp 2005 T-Shirts.
On the final day of camp–a gathering was held at the school’s Concert Hall. The campers who had attended the English language classes sang a song in English. The dance students performed a dance they had learned. Finally–the students of Daniel Ghazaryan School entertained the volunteers as they performed on various musical instrumen’s.
Summer Camp 2005 was a unique experience not only for the Children of Shushi–but it also had a great impact on the lives of the young volunteers from Los Angeles.
Lena Berghoudian–a freshman’student at Pierce College–describes the children’s amazing dedication to further their knowledge in various arenas as follows: "The children were bright–alert and prepared. I was extremely astounded by their eagerness to acquire knowledge–whether in learning a new dance step–a new language–or even a new sport. Furthermore–their productivity and progress throughout the course of the camp encouraged me–as well as my fellow volunteer peers–to challenge their abilities. Soon–the English class exceeded its plan to teach the basic principles of the language by developing into an extensive study of composition and grammar. The computer lessons–which were aimed at teaching the fundamentals of operating a computer–transformed into complex sessions exercising a variety of programs–challenging their learning–reading and typing capabilities. Their ability and willingness to learn new information in such little time astonished me."
Andrew Vartanian–a freshman’student at UC Irvine–gives the following description of the character of the children of Shushi: " The children–who don’t have much to look forward to–are the happiest and most cunning children I have ever met–as they roam around in the rubbles of Shushi. It was truly astonishing to see what great minds could develop of such kids that are so much less fortunate. I comprehended how granted we take life and not appreciate it." And as for the camp attendees’ parents’ reactions to the camp experience–he adds the following:" The hardest part of all was having a mother come up to us–hug us and tell us with tears in her eyes how grateful she was that we were able to bring joy to these kids’ lives and make this camp experience one that will forever remain in their hearts."
Reflecting on her moving conversations with the children of Shushi–Paleny Topjian–a freshman at UCLA reminisces: "While watching one of the soccer games–a little girl sat next to me and started inquiring. The questions were so many and her curiosity was so genuine–I was moved and began to accumulate questions myself. Questions like–what did this place have to offer all these children? What was their everyday life like in this land of ruins? Our presence was so exciting for them–and our departure so devastating–that I felt a little guilty for giving them something that we had to take away so quickly. The most touching question that I’ll never forget was one posed by a girl a few years younger than me: she asked–’Why are you guys so good?’ At first–this question didn’t make sense to me–and I thought I didn’t understand because of the differences in our dialects; but–when I asked her to repeat herself–I understood that she was asking why we were so generous and I began to think: have I really gone so out of my way? I mean–there I was with my best friend–and a group of wonderful people my age–having one of the most memorable times of my life–and a girl half way across the world thought that we were one of the most generous group of people in the world to do the things we were doing–and again I felt guilty. I promised a lot of children I would return next year and stay longer. I hope I can keep my promise–and bring more joy and hope into their lives. I know I can’t make all their dreams come true–but I know I can make a little difference in their lives. I know because I already have."
Maral Der-Sarkissian–a freshman college student at Berkeley–says at the conclusion of Summer Camp 2005: "I will forever remember the two weeks I spent in Shushi before going off to college. Even though I was there to touch the lives of children living in Karabagh–I find myself reflecting on the experience and realizing that they affected me so much more than I could have ever affected them. A new vigor awakened within me."
Finally–Gohar Mkrtichyan–the principal of Daniel Ghazaryan–evaluates the Summer Camp 2005 project as follows: "I sincerely hope that this wonderful project organized by the Shushi Music School Society will become a yearly tradition–as it has for the past two years. Indeed–amidst the ruins that we live in–this summer camp experience–albeit a short one–brings a ray of sunshine into our lives and is a unique opportunity to bring young Armenia’s living in different areas of the world together. The children’s only consolation at the completion of the program is the promise that it will repeat itself again next summer."
For more information about the Society’s projects–including additional pictures about the summer camp–or to make a tax-deductible donation for a specific project–visit www.shushischool.org or contact the Society at:
Shushi Music School Society
6000 Topeka Dr.–