Sir Vartan Melkonian, the orphan who grew up to conduct the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, has come a long way since his childhood as a street urchin in the slums of Beirut. After the death of his parents, Vartan and his siblings lived at the Bird’s Nest orphanage in Lebanon until he was eight years old.
Despite a severe speech impediment at the time, the young Vartan, after fleeing the civil war in 1972, worked as a singer in the UK. His voice landed him a place on TV’s New Faces. This lead to the blossoming of his singing career, where he was not only a lead singer but also a producer in a number of West End nightspots, including The Celebrité Club in New Bond Street and the Talk of the Town. The multitalented Vartan was also the director of television clips, amongst these No Easy Walk to Freedom for Nelson Mandela’s release in 1990.
Vartan’s great passion, however, was classical music, a direction he pursued with a passion. Amongst his compositions are included a symphony of 55 minutes, Impressions of Oman, recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra, and his symphonic poem, Drake Passage, recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, both of which had him taking the role of conductor.
A man of many talents, Melkonian is also the author of a novel, The Young Nomad and the City. The book follows the life of a young man’s life in Beirut up until the age of sixteen.
Amongst his vast list of charitable accomplishments, Vartan Melkonian includes:
Amongst the awards and honours bestowed him, are included:
Vartan Melkonian is, however, more than the sum of these parts. Besides working as a Television Director for the BBC and ITV, he has also flown helicopters while directing musical shows for outside broadcasting. What makes his achievements so outstanding is that Vartan has received no formal education. He is, to a large extent, a self-taught man.
As a public speaker, Vartan is able to convey his unique story, and in so doing, encompass all human aspirations. Someone who has stayed humble, despite working with many leading names in the music industry, including Julian Lloyd Webber, Willard White, Yvgeny Kissin, and Lord Yehudi Menuhin, to name but a few, he is still very much down to earth.
Vartan’s remarkable stories, although sometimes sad, sometimes moving, and sometimes joyful, draw on his own experiences, struggles, and determination to succeed, despite the odds. Amongst his audiences, he includes the United Nations, certain royal dignitaries, and heads of state. He speaks up for those who are unable to speak for themselves.
A remarkable keynote, ‘The Refugee Who Became The Great Conductor’ tells the true story of the ability to transform a torrid upbringing into a great future.
Vartan Melkonian is represented for speaking by contacting ProMotivate™ Speakers Agency office in London on +44 (0)207 8711829.
Even though he lives near London, he has not - cannot - forget his time in Beirut and the Genocide that occured; “I go three times a year. I stay in the orphanage. It’s still there. I sleep in a little room, a little cell. The director always introduces me to the children and I sit with them and have lunch, my meal with the children. I prefer it to any hotel. It’s my home, the only home I know.”