Public lecture looks at the voice and story of soprano Zabelle Panosian

Black and white photo of Zabelle Panosian

Music researcher and producer Ian Nagoski and music collector and researcher Harout Arakelian will present an in-person lecture entitled “I am Servant of Your Voice: Armenian-American Soprano Zabelle Panosian, 1891-1986” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, at the Industrial Technology Building, Room 101 (corner of Barstow and Campus Dr.). The presentation is part of the Fall Lecture Series of the Armenian Studies Program.

Soprano Zabelle Panosian (b. Bardizag 1891; d. New York City 1986) was among the most significant voices of the genocide generation of Armenian-Americans. She recorded 11 songs from March 1917 to June 1918 for Columbia Records in New York. She raised millions of dollars for the relief of Armenians through benefit concerts in the late 1910s, regularly collaborating with the tenor Armenag Shah-Mouradian. Her recordings resonated with audiences for decades. She toured Europe successfully and sought out Komitas Vardapet in Paris, publishing a first-hand account of her meeting with him as a devotee of his work.

Panosian’s music and story were nearly forgotten, but through her breathtakingly beautiful century-old recordings, a revival of her legacy is taking place. All over the world, people are learning her name and her music – and through her music, the story of the Armenian-American audience who cared for her during the wake of the genocide.

The newly published biography, “Zabelle Panosian: I am a Servant of your Voice,” was undertaken by three independent researchers. It presents her story along with new, careful restorations of her complete recordings, providing an opportunity to look deeply into the life and music of a unique artist who left an impressive body of work.

Ian Nagoski, who published Panosian’s biography, will talk about her life and music along with comments by his co-author Harout Arakelian who will speak directly about her relationship to the Fresno area.

Ian Nagoski is a music researcher and record producer in Baltimore, Maryland. For more than a decade, he has produced scores of reissues of early 20th century recordings in languages other than English for labels including “Dust-to-Digital,” “Tompkins Square,” his own “Canary Records,” and others. His enthusiastic talks have been hosted at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., the Onassis Cultural Center in Athens Greece, the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, and New York University.

Harout Arakelian is a video editor, music collector and researcher based in Los Angeles, California. His focus is the Armenian contribution to the landscape of art and culture, with a specific lens on the American experience. He is actively working on collecting every known commercial recording from the 78 rpm era. He contributes articles to the Armenian Museum of America’s “Sound Archive.” He began a series of live presentations at Abril Bookstore, which only ended due to the Covid pandemic. He has been a guest lecturer at UCLA and has delivered presentations for the Armenian Institute in London.

The lecture is free and open to the public. Free parking is available in Fresno State Lot P23, near the Industrial Technology Building, Fresno State. The Industrial Technology Building is located at the southeast corner of Barstow Ave and Campus Dr. on the Fresno State campus. A parking permit is required, and a free parking code is available through the Armenian Studies Program.

For more information about the lecture, please contact the Armenian Studies Program at 278-2669, visit the Armenian Studies website or visit their Facebook page.

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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