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06 09 15 - 19 year old, Tigran Hamasyan, a semi-finalist at this weekend's Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition in D.C.
From An.Mel. USA Modified Sep 13, 2006 - 22:08:39 PDTx
He's jazzing up the capital
Jazz pianist and USC music student takes his art on the road to a contest in Washington D.C.
By Wafiqah Basrai

19 year old, Tigran Hamasyan, a semi-finalist at this weekend's Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition in D.C.

Growing up surrounded by music, Tigran Hamasyan found himself attracted to the piano as a mere toddler.

After years of practice and hard work, Hamasyan, 19, of Glendale, now finds himself as one of the 12 semi-finalists in the 2006 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition, where he will compete for scholarships and the prestige of winning the internationally acclaimed award.

Hamasyan said he's grateful to be part of the competition, which will be held Saturday in Washington D.C., and is going to use the experience as a learning outlet.

"It's a really prestigious contest," Hamasyan said. "The judges are all really famous musicians that I've loved and studied. I'll learn a lot from all the great musicians from all around the world."

Six judges will judge the competition, in which competitors have 12 minutes to perform works that must include at least part of a Monk composition. Some of the judges in the contest include renowned jazz pianists Kenny Barron, Andrew Hill and Hamasyan's favorite, Herbie Hancock.

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Three finalists will be chosen from the semi-finalist competition to move to the finalist competition to be held on Sunday.

"I don't think of it as a competition," Hamasyan said. "I'm just going to go there and play my music, just do what I do, and see if people like it."

Even if he doesn't win, Hamasyan will have the opportunity to be heard by record companies at the semi-finalist competition, said Sarah Andrew Wilson, special projects coordinator with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.

"A lot of participants in the contest have been signed after the competition," Wilson said. "This is a big break for Tigran, it's a big break for all the semi-finalists."

The artist began his career in piano when he was only 3 years old. As he was growing up, his family played him all kinds of music, and jazz caught his interest. In Armenia, where he was brought up, everybody he knew owned a piano.

"It was like pianos were furniture," he said.

Because of its easy accessibility and the fact that he was brought up learning music, Hamasyan began to love the piano, he said.

At one point, Hamasyan was so involved with music that he created a schedule he followed on a daily basis, before he went to college. The schedule, which still hangs in his room above his piano, reads "10:30 to 11:30, play classical music and scales; 12 to 2, transcribe and study new music; 2:30 to 4:30, work on album; 5 to 7, work on keyboard sounds; 8 to 10, play free music." Although Hamasyan's schedule is not as structured now, he often plays the piano from the time he wakes up until the time he sleeps.

"When I was younger, my father used to not let me play sometime," Hamasyan said. "He used to say go out and play."

Hamasyan is now at USC, where he is studying jazz piano. He has written many compositions and wants to compile them into albums.

"Jazz is a language, if you learn jazz, you learn a language," he said. "You can't just learn jazz by reading a book, it takes years of practice. It's improvising."
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