Armenian Volunteer Corps

Welcome to the Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC) blog. Here our volunteers and alumni reflect on their experiences living and volunteering in Armenia. For more information about our programs, visit our website, follow us on Facebook or drop us an email: .

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Just the Right Fit

Amy Hunter, Musician-Pianist
Age 28, USA
July 15-September 3, 2009

My decision to come to Armenian this summer was a no brainer. I have always wanted to do volunteer work, but the timing was always off, and my interest in my family history only deepens and intensifies as I get older. I didn’t grow up immersed in the Armenian culture as many of the volunteers did. Although I am half Armenian I grew up in rural Maine. My link to Armenia was when I went to Boston to visit my grandparents. I would listen to them speak Armenian, eat lots of dolma, baklava and home made rose-pedal jelly, watch my grandfather play tavli with my cousin, and watch my grandmother sweep through the kitchen all day in her slippers cooking and making coffee.

This summer was the perfect time for me to be away for two months. I completed a bachelor and master’s degree in classical piano performance from the Esther Boyer School of Music in Philadelphia, where I currently live and can easily get time off during the summer months from work. When I filled out my AVC application my first choice for job placement was to teach or play music, but thinking that this may be a more difficult field than most to find work, I wrote that I would also help build homes. Much to my surprise I got placed teaching piano and re-designing the music program at a private school in Yerevan. I played it pretty cool leading into my travels. I didn’t obsess or imagine what it would be like. I didn’t want false expectations or to find myself saddened with unfulfilled dreams. Word of advice- this is the best way to travel!

I first walked though the doors of Macsedan School about 8 weeks ago. It’s a private school that specializes in languages. All students learn English, Armenian, Russian and then either German or French. I speak English and... English, these kids put me to shame! Language classes provided though Birthright Armenia are great. I actually have a tutor all to myself, so, I am definitely progressing, but was also relieved to find out that the students I would be giving piano lessons to can speak English. The school is technically closed for the summer so the unbelievable staff and I began to formulate a teaching schedule immediately for those students not on holiday who are able to come in. In Philadelphia my students come in once a week for 30-45 minutes and with at least half of them I am keeping my fingers crossed that they have practiced. Not the case in Armenia. Every student wanted to come in either three days a week, or every day for a lesson and they were all excited to be playing! I was already loving Armenia, making minor cultural adjustments, finding my way around the city, attending numerous fantastic diverse concerts at the Opera House and Open Air Fest, forming special life-long relationships with the staff at AVC, Birthright, and all the volunteers, but now the best part of being here was about to begin. All of my students at Macsedan are just a plethora of wonderful things. They are well rehearsed for every lesson, they are respectful, interested, intelligent, motivated and helped me immensely with my Armenian! I loved speaking Armenian with them, I was able to let my guard down and also help them with their English. Lessons flow easily and quickly in Armenia.

On September 1st there was a performance put on by the current students for the newly enrolled students. I was able to perform, students put on a play, sang the Macsedan anthem, etc. At the end of the performance one of my students came up to me and gave me a huge hug. She pulled away and asked me “Am I going to see you tomorrow?” Tomorrow was the first day of classes, and also the day before I reluctantly return to the States. I had a mile long list of things to do, not to mention pack, so I replied “I’m not sure.” She reached over and gave me another long genuine hug and walked away. I turned around and another one of my students was standing next to me. The same question! All of my students came up to me that day and greeted me once more before I had to leave. Leading into that day I already knew that I loved Armenia, that this experience had influenced my being, memories and relationships with volunteers and the Macsedan staff were imbedded and that my volunteer placement was the right fit and that I wasn’t ready to leave. These students made a very deep impression on me and when I thought I didn’t need any more convincing there it was right in front of me.



  • At 1:44 PM, September 08, 2009, Blogger Unknown said…

    Great post! Your writing is just as creative and beautiful as your piano performances. XO Mandy Messer

  • At 1:14 AM, September 10, 2009, Blogger Unknown said…

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience on the AVC blog... and your talent with Armenia. It's amazing how in-tune (no pun intended) Armenians are with the arts. It's great to hear that the next generation of musicians are out there and excited about their music!


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