Feb 052016
 

John Bilezikjian tribute 2-18-2016For fifty years, audiences have enjoyed his music, in recordings, film scores, classical concerts, and personal appearances. His lifelong passion and dedication to music has entertained and inspired thousands. We invite you to celebrate the life and legacy of John Bilezikjian. Join us as we pay tribute to our dear friend  and  “America’s Oud Virtuoso”. The tribute to John Bilezikjian will be held February 18th at Tango Del Rey in San Diego.

The tribute bellydance showcase is being organized by friends. Featured belly dancers are Julia, Jessenia, Talia, Melanimah, Eliza & Christina, and Sabrina. Live music will be performed by the Middle-Earth Ensemble with special guests.

Portion of proceeds and donations will go to the John Bilezikjian Foundation. The John Bilezikjian Foundation was created to honor the lifetime achievements of John Bilezikjian in music and education, and to support those striving to continue his legacy.

tango del reyTango Del Rey is located at 3567 Del Rey St., San Diego. Doors open at 7 p.m. and show starts at 8 p.m. Cover charge is $10.

 Posted by on February 5, 2016  Tagged with:
Mar 222015
 

Thank you from the Bilezikjian family

Dear Friends and Family,

The Bilezikjian family wishes to acknowledge with deep appreciation the many expressions of love, kindness and support shown to us during the hours of our bereavement. May God Bless and Keep You!

It was John’s wish that his funeral reflect his deep commitment of his faith to God and Jesus Christ. As you know his parents & family were devote believers in family and the Armenian Traditions. So much so, that John and I decided that I should be baptized at St. James Armenian Church—it was a private ceremony with John as my Godfather.

I wish to thank all of you for your cards, letters, gifts, phone calls and donations. I was personally overwhelmed by the outpouring of people present at the Funeral Mass and also at the Hokehankist (40th day of passing).

John particularly wanted to have a dinner to honor his parents for the tenth year of their passing, but due to illness and limited funds we were unable to do it until now.

There is no way I could adequately show you my appreciation for everything you’ve done.

With love and sincere gratitude,

Helen Bilezikjian

 Posted by on March 22, 2015  Tagged with:
Mar 012015
 
John Bilezikjian, Master Oudest

John Bilezikjian — February 1, 1948 to January 19, 2015

In Remembrance of John Bilezikjian

and in Loving Memory of
Alice Bilezikjian
Andrew Bilezikjian
Joseph (Joey) Whynaught

Hokehankist Requiem Service
March 15, 2015, 11:30 to 12:30 p.m.
St. James Armenian Apostolic Church
4950 W. Slauson Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90056
323-295-4588

Hokejast following Mass

Memorial Luncheon
Please bring your favorite dish.
Drinks and desert provided.

Speeches and Music

“Our heartfelt thank you goes out to all our supportive donors. Your contributions are much appreciated and will go a long way to help continue John’s musical legacy.”

John Bilezikjian Foundation

photo by Terry LaBelle Whitley

 Posted by on March 1, 2015
Jan 202015
 
John Bilezikjian, Master Oudest

John Bilezikjian — February 1, 1948 to January 19, 2015

We are sad to announce the passing of John Bilezikjian on Monday, January 19th, 2015.

Public Viewing
Friday, January 30, 2015, 7:00 pm
McCormick & Sons Mortuary
25000 Moulton Parkway
Laguna Woods, CA 92637
Phone 949-768-0933

Funeral Service
Saturday, January 31, 2015, 11:00 am
St. James Armenian Apostolic Church
4950 W. Slauson Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90056
Phone 323-295-4588

Interment
Inglewood Park Cemetery
720 East Florence Avenue
Inglewood, CA 90302

Reception at St. James Church Hall following the Interment

Flowers are Welcome and Contributions
to 
JohnBilezikjianFoundation.com Appreciated.

 

photo by Terry LaBelle Whitley

 Posted by on January 20, 2015
Feb 022012
 

John and Helen BelizikjianTARZANA, CA – World renowned oudist John Bilezikjian and his wife, singer Helen Bilezikjian, treated the Providence Tarzana Medical Staff at the Tarzana Hospital for the Medical Education with a festive musical program. The lyrical celebration was the brainchild of Dr. Avrum Bluming.

Dr. Bluming had heard John perform at Theodore Bikel’s home and was impressed with both John’s musical skill on the oud and his knowledge about the unique instrument. Dr. Bluming contacted Susan Pines, the Medical Education Coordinator for Tarzana Hospital, to arrange the special entertainment for the staff.

In addition to playing the oud, John provided his audience, some of whom might never even have heard of an oud, with information about the instrument’s history and origins. Helen, a trained opera singer, sang several selections.

Audience participation was invited during a question and answer period at which time inquiries were made about the John Bilezikjian Foundation. The foundation was formed to ensure the continuation of John’s musical legacy. Theodore Bikel, at whose home Dr. Bluming first heard John play, is one of the foundation’s major contributors.

It is my mission to present the special music of the oud to as many people as possible,” said John. “It was an honor to perform for the dedicated staff at Tarzana Hospital and I was grateful to be able to share my love for the oud with them.”

The John Bilezikjian Foundation is a non-profit organization created to honor the lifetime achievements of John Bilezikjian in music and education, and to support those striving to continue his legacy. For more information, please call 1-855-OUDDIST (683-3478) or visit the website at JohnBilezikjianFoundation.com.

 Posted by on February 2, 2012  Tagged with:
Feb 012012
 
Certificate of Scholarship is awarded to Artoor Minas, a Whittier Law School law student.

John Bilezikjian presents the award to Artoor Minas.

WHITTIER, CA – Whittier Law School law student Artoor Minas is on a quest. Actually, he is pursuing two dreams. At the same time he is preparing for a demanding law career, he dreams of introducing an ancient Middle Eastern musical instrument, the oud, to as many people around the world as possible. The John Bilezikjian Foundation is helping to make his vision a reality with a grant allowing him to study with celebrated world musician oudist John Bilezikjian.

Minas’ love of Middle Eastern music had been nurtured from a young age at home.

“My parents were from Iran and I grew up with this type of music in the household,” said Minas.

But, his musical passion was inspired during a sojourn in Hungary. “I saw a Moroccan group where the oud was played in their concerts. I was able to go to their shows regularly because they were based in Budapest.”

Upon his return to the United States, Minas enrolled at Whittier University to study law, which required he devote many hours in the library. Even so, the demands of his course work did not extinguish his musical interests and he occasionally wandered into the library’s music section.

His browsings revealed the instrument’s history reaching back more than 2,000 years. An eleven-stringed, fretless Persian instrument, the oud is played with an eagle’s feather. It is the precursor of the lute, guitar and other western stringed instruments, having been brought back to Europe by returning crusaders. Oud makers spend hundreds of hours creating the exquisite gourd shaped instrument out of meticulously shaped exotic wood.

The library also offered recordings, including some by John Bilezikjian, an artist to whom the young enthusiast found himself increasingly drawn.

I was exploring the world music section in the public library and I found John Bilezikjian’s ‘Music of the Armenian Diaspora’ CD,” Minas recalled. “I checked it out immediately because it looked so interesting and that’s how I found John – inadvertently, accidently, by fate, whatever you want to call it – by going through the library and checking out CDs.”

He called the number on the back of the CD and was surprised when Bilezikjian answered the phone. As he recalls, they connected immediately through their shared Armenian heritage and love of the oud. Once he learned Bilezikjian lived in Southern California, they transformed from phone acquaintances to student and teacher.

Artoor Minas playing the oud

Artoor Minas

Minas was astonished that this man was willing to work with a beginner as Bilezikjian, a musician of worldwide reputation, has performed worldwide, on concert tours and with orchestras such as the Boston Pops, as featured soloist. He has recorded sound tracks for more than eighty films, including “Prince of Egypt”, “Spy Game”, “Siriana”, “Must Love Dogs”, “Schindler’s List” and “Beowulf”.

As Minas’ appreciation of the music has deepened, so also has his connection to his Persian Armenian heritage. Each lesson begins with a background of the songs to be learned: where they are from and the history behind them.

My parents are immigrants. I’m first generation here. My parents are descendants of the Armenian genocide. They fled to Iran but the Iranian revolution of 1979 forced them to come here. So I connect with this background.”

His musical studies have reinforced his desire to specialize in immigration law.

Minas hopes to carry on Bilezikjian’s quest to make the oud as well known and appreciated as classical instruments such as the violin. In fact, Bilezikjian’s first instrument was the violin, but he, too, fell passionately, deeply in love with the beauty of the oud.

I hope to introduce it as much as I can to the world. John has done that in an amazing way, such as by bringing it to the concert level. I would like to do the same,” said Minas. “I would like to do it with my own style, with my own identity. I want to do this with a group of musicians that I know are interested in different types of instruments and, I hope, present it in a new and unique way.”

The John Bilezikjian Foundation is a non-profit organization created to honor the lifetime achievements of John Bilezikjian in music and education, and to support those striving to continue his legacy. For more information, please call 1-855-OUDDIST (683-3478) or visit the website at JohnBilezikjianFoundation.com.

NOTE: An earlier article regarding this grant mistakenly reported that Minas attended the law school at Chapman University instead of Whittier Law School. The article was titled “Chapman University Law Student Receives Armenian Music Scholarship”.

Sep 292011
 

John BilezikjianDear Friends,

On behalf of the The Friends of John Bilezikjian thank you very much for donations, letters of support and prayers. Our first function, “The Magic of John Bilezikjian” concert for 2011 was a great success. Your participation made a dramatic difference in the success of the concert and its subsequent video and recording.

This thank you is long overdue but through your generosity and the generosity of others, we are officially the John Bilezikjian Foundation and we have non-profit status. Please know that your contribution will be fully tax deductible as the John Bilezikjian Foundation. Inc., under Section 501(c)(3).

The specific purpose of this corporation is to honor the lifetime achievements of John Bilezikjian in music and education; to support those striving to continue his legacy.

In keeping with our Mission Statement and for as long as John is with us, we hope to raise enough funds to complete the recording and DVD. We are committed to furthering John’s legacy by doing several projects and finally to provide financial support to a deserving individual who will continue in the field of Ethnomusicology, and the art of the oud.

Thanks again both of you, for your love and kindness over the years. We will continue to advise you of our latest progress on the CD/DVD.

Helen Bilezikjian
President
John Bilezikjian Foundation

 Posted by on September 29, 2011
Aug 192011
 
John Bilezikjian and the Halehs in 1963

Early 1963 photo of John Bilezikjian’s first band, The Halehs. The young band was performing at Milliken Junior High School in Van Nuys, CA. From the left, John Belezikjian on the oud, his brother Edward Bilezikjian on clarinet and Michael Tolegian on dumbeg.

1963. Four boys stepped on the Milliken Junior High School stage in Van Nuys, California and took their positions, shyly grinning at their friends scattered about the auditorium. John Bilezikjian, set his strange looking instrument firmly on his lap, nodded at his buddies, and the music began.

2011. The music continues

It began as the dream of a 10-year-old Valley boy when he created his first band, The Halehs. The boy never looked back and for nearly 50 years, John Bilezikjian has set his unique instrument, the oud, on his lap and entertained audiences worldwide – on stage, cabaret, in concert halls, recordings and movie soundtracks.

Bilezikijian chuckles as he recalls his early days.

In 1963, at St. James Armenian Church in Los Angeles we were so happy and excited that we were hired to perform. We each earned $8.00 plus a Shish Kebab Dinner.”

He never lost that early thrill, the excitement in the moment before his fingers settled on the strings of his instrument. An ancient folk instrument of the Middle East, the oud’s Persian roots reach back 2,000 years.

Bilezikijian has taken the instrument beyond its traditional audience and repertoire into areas as disparate as music of the Sephardim and Russia. He has transcribed and performed classical European pieces whose writers had never even heard of the oud.  He has also ventured into the other end of the musical spectrum by performing with Little Richard, Robert Palmer and Leonard Cohen.

Filmgoers have been listening to him for years. Blackhawk Down, Must Love Dogs, Beowulf, The Mummy, Hidalgo, Aladdin, and Schindler’s List are just a few of the soundtracks to which he has contributed.

John Bilezikjian in concert 2011On August 21, 2011, John Bilezikjian will be performing in concert at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center.  In celebration of the 50 years he has dedicated to music, the concert will include friends with whom he has performed over the years, including members of his first band, the Halehs, formed when he was 10 years old.

For information on the upcoming concert, please visit FriendsOfJohnBilezikjian.com or call 1-855-OUD-DIST (1-855-683-3478).

Aug 112011
 
John Bilezikjian backstage before his Oud Concert at Wilshire Ebell Theatre, LA 1974.

John Bilezikjian backstage just before his Oud Concert at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre, Los Angeles, in 1974. Photo by Don Hagopian.

From the day he found his grandfather’s instrument, life and playing the oud have never been the same.  John Bilezikjian has devoted his life to music. He took an ancient folk instrument, the oud, and expanded its range into areas never before explored.

In this country, most people are only aware of the oud as the strange looking instrument that often backs up a belly dancer. Bilezikjian’s talent expanded far beyond smoky cabarets onto concert stages worldwide making him the most distinguished oudist of his generation. His hard work has earned him the title of “America’s Oud Virtuoso”.

The oud is an ancient eleven-stringed, fretless Persian instrument dating back more than 2000 years. It is played with an eagle’s feather. It is the precursor of the lute, guitar and other western stringed instruments, having been brought back to Europe by returning crusaders.

Bilezikjian has given command performances for heads of state, appeared on concert tours with Leonard Cohen, performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Pacific Symphony, the Pasadena Pops Orchestra, and the Los Angeles Mandolin orchestra, among others. In June 2005, he debuted with the Boston Pops Orchestra as featured soloist, marking the first time the oud was presented in a solo capacity in a classical concert setting.

Although they weren’t aware of it, movie lovers have heard his music for many years. Bilezikjian has recorded sound tracks for more than fifty films, including “Prince of Egypt”, “Spy Game”, “Siriana”, “Must Love Dogs”, and “Beowulf”.  His music can be heard on many PBS documentaries. His first job for the film industry was for the sound track of the “Mission Impossible” series on television when was 19 years old.

Bilezikjian’s record company, Dantz Records, located in Laguna Hills, CA, has produced more than 25 recordings encompassing folk, pop and classical genres.  They are available through his website DantzRecords.com.

John Bilezikjian

On August 21, 2011, John Bilezikjian will be performing in concert at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center.  In celebration of the 50 years he has dedicated to music, the concert will include friends with whom he has performed over the years, including members of his first band, the Halehs, formed when he was 10 years old.

For information on the upcoming concert, please visit FriendsOfJohnBilezikjian.com or call 1-855-OUD-DIST (1-855-683-3478).

Aug 052011
 

Chances are you have never heard his name. Odds are even higher you have never heard of the instrument he plays. Nevertheless, the Southland is home to a master musician who has spent the last 50 years performing worldwide on stages large and small. From intimate nightclubs, to European appearances before royalty, John Bilezikjian has become the foremost oudist in America.

Bilezikjian’s musical life began at age five with violin lessons from his father, Andrew, himself a classical violinist. During these early years, the boy listened to family recordings brought from Turkey when his parents had immigrated to the United States. In particular, the young musician was fascinated by the sound of the oud, an ancient Persian instrument popular on the old albums.

“What instrument is that?” he asked.

John Bilezikjian with new Onnik Karibyan oud 1966

John Bilezikjian photo was taken by his father Andrew Bilezikjian in 1966. John had just received a new Onnik Karibyan oud from his father. John’s Aunt Sona Dardarian, had brought it from Istanbul, Turkey, holding it on her lap during the flight from Turkey. He still has possession of this marvelous instrument.

In answer, his mother went upstairs to his grandfather’s room to get the elder’s oud. The boy held the instrument in his lap, unaware of its roots that reach back 2,500 years. As he experimented with its 11 strings, he didn’t care that it was the forerunner to the lute or that it had no frets. He just wanted to make the wonderful sounds he heard on the scratchy albums. After that, it’s likely his grandfather didn’t get much playing time as his grandson seldom put it down.

By the time he had celebrated his eleventh birthday, John Bilezikjian formed his first band, the Halehs, with other musical buddies from church. They quickly found themselves in demand for all sorts of events within the Armenian community, keeping their parents busy driving them to these jobs.

Before he graduated from CSUN, Bilezikjian was a working musician, regularly performing on TV and motion picture soundtracks, and cabarets. During this time of professional growth, his presentations of classical and folkloric music skyrocketed in skill and repertoire.

With half a century of musical experience under his belt, Bilezikjian has become adept at creating complex note progressions, thus moving uncomplicated melodies into dramatically rich musical passages. This expertise, coupled with his encyclopedic knowledge of many ethnic music genres, in all their intricacies, has made him the first choice for all manner of performance and musical education opportunities.

Mr. Bilezikjian has his own record company, DantzRecords.com where he has more than 25 recordings available.

John Bilezikjian, "America's Oud Virtuoso"

On August 21, 2011, John Bilezikjian will be performing in concert at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center.  In celebration of the 50 years he has dedicated to music, the concert will include friends with whom he has performed over the years, including members of his first band, the Halehs, formed when he was 10 years old.

For information on the upcoming concert, please visit JohnBilezikjianFoundation.com or call 1-855-OUD-DIST (1-855-683-3478).

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