Maestro Joseph Ichkhanian, born on Feb. 19, 1931, passed away on March 29. A Lebanese citizen of Armenian descent, he began playing the guitar in 1949 with Professor Vruyr Mazmanian and was subsequently offered a scholarship by the Spanish government. He continued his artistic education and music from 1959 to 1962 at the Conservatory “Royal Academy of Music of Madrid.”
Ichkhanian was privileged to have worked with masters of the classical guitar: Regino Sainz de la Maza, who was his professor at the Conservatory of Madrid; Andres Segovia, with whom he took international music courses at Saint Jacques de Compostela in Spain for four consecutive summers, at the end of which a degree of interpretation and technicality was given to him; and Narciso Yepes, for two years, during which he had the honor of being regarded as his most distinguished disciple. His guitar studies were crowned by the Higher Diploma handed in 1962 by the Royal Conservatory of Madrid. Subsequently, Ichkhanian attended classes with Interpretive Master Alexander Lagoya at the International Academy of Nice, France, and took music lessons at the Chigiana Academy of Siena, Italy.
Returning to Lebanon in 1963, Ichkhanian began his career in the “Hispanic Cultural Center” and later the Musical Youth of Lebanon. In 1970 and thanks to his efforts, the teaching of the guitar was introduced in the official program of the National Conservatory of Music of Lebanon. Since then, thousands were his students, including 20 guitar teachers currently teaching at the conservatory. Jad Hidari was his first graduate student and also the first professor to be able to deliver qualifications in turn to other students. With him, he introduced the lute at the conservatory and also founded the Lebanese “Association of Friends of the Guitar.”
Dr. Walid Gholmieh, the former director of the National Conservatory of Music in Lebanon, characterized Ichkhanian as one of the major figures in Lebanese music, who popularized the guitar in Lebanese society—both in academic and creative fields.
In addition to his teaching career, for more than 40 years Ichkhanian was a very active soloist and recitalist, both on the local and international scenes, including in Spain and Ireland, where he was invited to participate in the “Guitar Dublin Festival,” in Tunisia, and throughout the Middle East and Armenia. Moreover, anxious to share his passion for Spanish culture, Ichkhanian brought to Lebanon the greatest virtuosos of the guitar, presenting them to the Lebanese public and especially to fans of the guitar.
A composer of many musical works, Ichkhanian was also the author of several books, including an Arabic dictionary of musical terms, the first of its kind in the Arab world, in collaboration with Ghassan Khalil. But most striking was his method of modern guitar, the first bilingual method, published in French and Arabic, and officially adopted exclusively for teaching guitar at the National Conservatory of Music. It is even used in schools of music in Lebanon and the Middle East.
In 2003, Spain’s Ministry of Education conferred the “Medal of the Order of Civil Merit” on Ichkhanian, and in 2011 the Cross of the Official “Order of Isabel la Catolica” in appreciation for services rendered to Spain abroad.
Source: Armenian Weekly Mid-West