February 3, 2016

Promoting Peace through the Unifying Power of Music


Armenian singer/songwriter and IVLP alumnus Andre Simonian (front on guitar) playing with Turkish and Armenian musicians in a "Melody for Harmony" concert December 14, 2015 in Yerevan, Armenia. Photo Credit, MG studio, http://www.mariamgevorgyan.com/
Andre Simonian, an Armenian singer/songwriter and leader of the rock band “The Beautified Project,” has always felt compelled to use his music as a way to promote peace and tolerance in his community, frequently organizing various free-of-charge concerts on the topics of domestic violence and tolerance. Yet it was only after he participated in an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on the topic of “Promoting Social Change through Art” in 2014 that he developed the idea to cooperate directly with a Turkish band to create and record a single dedicated to reconciliation and peace, perform joint concerts in Armenia and Turkey, and film a music video. As Andre states, “taking part in the program gave me a much better understanding of the importance of using art in easing the implementation of social changes. It once again assured me that artists have a much more important role in society than just entertaining.” 
Due to the tense historical relationship between Armenia and Turkey, Andre initially faced some challenges finding Turkish musicians willing to partner with him on his venture. Yet due to his perseverance and strong leadership skills, Andrea was able to forge a fruitful partnership with four celebrated Turkish folk musicians and with the well-known Turkish-Armenian singer Sibil. 
After months of outreach, preparation, and creative brainstorming, Andre and his fellow musicians organized two highly successful “Melody for Harmony” concerts in Yerevan, Armenia and Istanbul, Turkey in December 2015. This creative venture contributed towards building cultural bridges between the peoples of Armenia and Turkey in order to promote reconciliation. “Melody for Harmony” helped to highlight the close cultural ties between Turkey and Armenia and the ability of ordinary citizens to transcend the closed borders. 
In March 2016, Melody for Harmony completed the music video for the single, “Don’t Blame Me.” 
As Andre notes, “different forms of art shape the cultural roots of the society. Therefore artists are a vital element in forming the infrastructure of a community that they live in.” Andre continues to be a role model for many young Armenians and continues to use his music as a force of positive social change. Now that the music video is complete, he plans to organize different events in collaboration with the U.S.-Armenia Alumni Association to launch it and to continue promoting peace and tolerance in his community.