Ian Gillan, Tony Iommi Mark Gyumri Music School’s First Anniversary

Ian Gillan cuts the ribbon to Gyumri's N6 Music School during its opening ceremony on Sept. 20, 2013.

Yerevan (Mediamax)—Rock stars Ian Gillan (lead singer for Deep Purple) and Tony Iommi (guitarist for Black Sabbath) addressed students and teachers at Gyumri’s N6 Music School on Friday, marking the school’s first anniversary.

Sept. 20 will mark the first anniversary of the opening of the N6 Music School, built jointly by the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR), Mediamax Media Company, and Australia’s Do Something Organization.

“To all the staff and students, please know that I am thinking of you on this day; one year from the opening. I hope you are enjoying the school and – most important – that you are enjoying the music. Music is a friend for life and souls. Peace, love and respect to you all,” Ian Gillan’s said to students in a written letter.

“Dear Headmaster, Teachers and Pupils! I’m afraid my work schedule has prevented me from coming to see you. Nevertheless, I’d like to send you my congratulations on your first year anniversary. It’s amazing that what started as a conversation with lan Gillan has now become a building and successful school. People all over the world know about you and have contributed to the rebuilding. I hope the day goes well and look forward to visiting you at some point in the future,” Tony Iommi’s letter read.

The opening of the music school took place on Sept. 20, 2013. Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Do Something Chairman Jon Dee, Mardigian Family representatives, and Ian Gillan himself attended the opening.

A few months after the devastating Spitak earthquake of 1988 that killed 25,000 Armenians and left hundreds of thousands homeless, 24-year-old Jon Dee organized the Rock Aid Armenia project in London. British rock stars recorded a top 40 cover version of Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water and helped to release the special “Earthquake Album.” Revenue from the single and album sales was contributed as aid to Armenia.

In 2009, Armenia’s Mediamax media company decided to honor the participants of Rock Aid Armenia and contacted Jon Dee who lives in Australia and heads the Do Something organization that he set up with tennis star and former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash.

As Jon was planning to re-release Rock Aid Armenia’s Smoke on the Water to raise additional funds for Armenia, Mediamax and Do Something joined forces to implement the Armenia Grateful 2 Rock / Rock Aid Armenia project.

In October 2009, Mediamax invited Ian Gillan from Deep Purple, Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath, Geoff Downes from Yes/Asia and Jon Dee to Armenia. Under the Armenian President’s decree, they were awarded an Order of Honor. It was later that Brian May from Queen and David Gilmour from Pink Floyd were given their Orders of Honor by the Armenian Embassy in London.

Ian Gillan, Tony Iommi, Geoff Downes and Jon Dee visited the Octet Music School in Gyumri during their trip to Armenia. If there has ever existed a painful blend of poverty and talent, then it was vividly exposed at the Gyumri Octet School of Music. Many of the students come from underprivileged families in Gyumri. Their music school has been made up of “domiks” (metal sheet housing) that were left over from the 1988 earthquake. The promise to rebuild these temporary premises with a proper building has not happened. Despite their dilapidated premises, the Octet Music School has kept producing talent year after year.

The Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR) has been sponsoring the underprivileged students of the School for many years. A hint of hope came to the school about 5 years ago when a very special couple from the United States, Mr. and Mrs. Edward and Janet Mardigian visited the students, accompanied by the FAR Board of Directors. “I would never forget those children, tears were coming to my eyes every time I recalled their beautiful musical performance,” said Janet Mardigian. They have never stopped thinking about the ways that they could help the children.

The children’s performance also struck the rock heroes Ian Gillan, Tony Iommi and Geoff Downes. Together with Jon Dee, they announced that they would help to rebuild the school. By the end of 2009, FAR, Mediamax and Do Something signed a trilateral agreement to achieve this outcome.

In March 2010, Mediamax and Do Something organized two charitable concerts by Ian Gillan with the Armenian Symphonic Orchestra in Yerevan. General sponsorship of the concerts by leading Armenian mobile operator VivaCell-MTS allowed to raise $45,000. Over the past 2 years, a total of $110,000 has been raised for rebuilding the school – the Armenian Government, Geoff Downes, EMI Records and Orange Armenia also made contributions.

In 2010, Ian Gillan and Tony Iommi set up the WhoCares ad-hoc super-group to raise funds for the Octet school. In May 2011, Edel Music released the single by WhoCares with 2 brand new songs – Out of My Mind and Holy Water. In July 2012, Edel Music released the WhoCares album that comprises the 2 songs from the single and unreleased and rare material from Gillan and Iommi’s back catalogue.

In summer 2012 the FAR Board recently briefed the Mardigian Family Foundation about these extensive fundraising efforts. The following day, their Foundation informed FAR that it will almost triple the funds raised so far and allocate around $350,000. This generous donation was extremely important and it allowed FAR, Mediamax and Do Something to launch the construction of the school.

In January 2011, the owner of music store Millbank Music in Canada, Tim Irving, contacted Ian Gillan’s manager Phil Banfield and said that he would like to provide musical instruments to the Gyumri school. Tim noted that he had been a fan of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath since childhood and he would be honored to take part in the WhoCares project implemented by Ian Gillan and Toni Iommi. For over two years, Tim Irving collected an impressive number of musical instruments for the N6 music school in Gyumri: 24 violins, 12 acoustic guitars, 12 ukeleles, 4 alto Saxophones, 4 trumpets, 2 mandolins, 2 flutes, 3 hand drums, 1 conga kit, 3 Yamaha portable keyboards, 1 Yamaha 88 note digital piano, and more.


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