Tamar Mardirossian Kaprelian

Tamar Mardirossian Kaprelian

Tamar Mardirossian Kaprelian is an Armenian-American singer, songwriter, and social entrepreneur. Her debut album, Sinner or a Saint, was released in 2010, and in 2015 she represented Armenia in the Eurovision Song Contest. She is a co-founder of Nvak, a music education program for talented musicians in countries facing social, political, and economic difficulties. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University in 2016.


As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A musician. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been laser focused on my passion and love for this art. 

What was the most transformative course from your undergraduate education?

In the course Bildungsroman in Europe, taught by Professor Nicholas Dames, I realized my love for spatially mapping out novels Franco Moretti style. I learned that when one studies and maps out literal and metaphorical spaces, it can foreshadow important aspects of a novel’s plot, and can also teach the reader about a character’s mental, emotional, and psychological state. I wrote my senior thesis on this topic and am determined to get a paper published about it!

What was the best advice you were ever given and who gave it to you?

“Never rely on anyone to make things happen for you. If you want it, you have to go and get it yourself.” — Phil Mardirossian, my father.

It is important to be a self-starter and to set goals for yourself. It is important to be persistent and to never give credence to people that tell you that you can’t do something.  

Why do you think Phi Beta Kappa and an arts & sciences education are important in today’s society? 

I think it is important to be a part of communities that are made-up of like-minded people. For me, Phi Beta Kappa is a crew of super smart people who took their education seriously. I think that it is inspiring to be a part of something that has such an impressive track record of success stories. I also think that it is important to have communities like this so that others can aspire to be a part of them as well. 

You’re a social entrepreneur and a professional musician. How long have you been doing both? How do those two realms come together in your mind?

I started singing professionally when I was 14; so my most formative years were spent hustling in the music business. I was young and naive... and I didn’t have good mentors, let alone good female mentors. But if I had, I think that I could have avoided a lot of painful pitfalls that I endured. Luckily, these negative experiences had a profound and positive impact on my life; they built character and confidence. And as I grew older, I kept asking myself what can I do to make an impact on the music business? How can I put my contacts to good use? How can I make a difference?

Three years ago, my partner Andrew Fox and I launched Nvak, which means “music” in Armenian. Nvak is a music education program for talented musicians in countries facing social, political, and economic difficulties. We launched our pilot program in Armenia, and we are planning to take the program to Jerusalem in August 2018. We teach our students the fundamentals of how to write, produce, and perform their own songs. We bring talented instructors and taste-makers from the music business to these countries to teach. We hope to find and nurture young talent and to promote collaboration and dialogue through the creation of music. We also hope to create a network of engaged and active songwriters and musicians and help them find job opportunities through our vast network of contacts.

This year, we’re excited to be accepting international students for our 2018 summer program in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia. We share information about the program and how to apply on our website.

What is your favorite part about your job?

Being able to positivity influence and mentor young female musicians. 

What book are you reading right now? 

I just started reading Start With Why by Simon Sinek. It’s been on my desk for months, and I finally got around to opening it. I would say that it is a must-read for anyone who is interested in and thinking about starting their own company and/or organization.

To learn more about Nvak, visit www.nvak.org.