Olympia High grad will share music around the world

After teaching in rural America for 2 years, Olympia High grad will lead workshops

lpemberton@theolympian.comJanuary 20, 2014 

Visiting the second-grade classroom of his mother, Roosevelt Elementary School teacher Cheryl Tafejian, Olympia musician Tom Tafejian plays his guitar while co-writing a song, “I’ve Got the Good Morning Blues,” with the class as his mother copies the lyrics. He is leaving Saturday to teach eight songwriting workshops at schools around the world. He plans to document the journey and share the young voices through audio recordings and a short film.

STEVE BLOOM/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Music has been a part of Tom Tafejian’s life for as long as he can remember.

“My dad taught me to play the piano,” he said, adding that he was only a toddler at the time.

The 25-year-old Olympia High School graduate recently returned from a two-year stint teaching music in Mississippi through Teach for America.

“I was teaching in a very rural, low-income community,” he said. “That was the best thing that ever happened to me. Really, it was a life-changing experience.”

Now Tafejian (pronounced tuh-fay-jun) is about to embark on a trip across the globe to share music with other youths and create a documentary about it.

“The purpose is to get kids expressing themselves with music,” Tafejian said.

He leaves this week for Thailand, where he’ll teach a four-week workshop at a private school. After that, he plans to go to Singapore, India, Ethiopia, South Africa, Argentina and Guatemala to lead workshops in lyric writing, composition and performance techniques. A stop in Lebanon is tentatively set, too.

Each workshop will include a community performance. Tafejian is taking recording equipment to document the international project, which he calls “Our Song: Workshop World Tour.”

The music educator was inspired to create the project after participating in a similar effort during a four-month trip he took to Armenia in the fall. It’s where he learned to play the duduk (an Armenian woodwind instrument) and designed and facilitated a 10-week music workshop at the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies. He’ll lead similar music workshops in other countries at a mix of private and public schools and after-school programs.

“It’s going to be about going there, finding out what the kids are interested in, and integrating that (into the workshops),” Tafejian said.

His mom, Cheryl Tafejian, is a second-grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School in Olympia. Last week, he visited her classroom and shared a music and geography lesson with students. He played the duduk and guitar, and worked with the kids to write an original blues song about waking up in the morning.

“It was fun,” said 7-year-old Rue Ekar.

It was clear that Tafejian inherited a love of music from his dad and a love of teaching from his mom.

“You can see that you have made a difference in the life of someone,” he said. “It makes me happy. It’s a gift to share what you love with another person.”

Learn more

For more information about Tom Tafejian’s project, go to conceptuallife.org.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 lpemberton@theolympian.com @Lisa_Pemberton

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