The orphan boy who became a great conductor100 Lives


A video made by 100 Lives.com https://auroraprize.com/en/ Aurora Prize

Vartan Melkonian was brought up in the early ‘50s as an orphan in the Birds’ Nest Orphanage in Lebanon until the age of eight.  He then lived rough in the slums of Beirut, scouring the streets of the city.

Who could have imagined that this ‘street-slug’ – as Vartan used to be called in the gutters, with a severe speech impediment – would grow up to become a conductor of classical music, conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and other similar orchestras in London’s most famous halls and across the globe.

“…he has had no formal education or any musical training.  His life story is noting short of a miracle.”  Hallam Tennyson.


Vartan was made an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters on 21 October 2016 in Los Angeles.  He was made a Baron of Cilicia on 19th November 2015 and Sir in 1995.

Vartan is also A Motivational Public Speaker.  He speaks at international events, gala dinners and important charity evenings in the presence of Royalties, Heads of States, dignitaries and business men and women.  He has been a Keynote Speaker at the UN in Geneva, in Cambodia, Colombia and at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Street Children in the House of Commons – in the Middle East and the Gulf states.     

How is it possible for someone like Vartan to undergo this remarkable transformation?  The only person who can tell the story of this astonishing journey is Vartan himself.

Fleeing the start of civil war in Lebanon he arrived in the UK in 1972 and began to work as a singer on the Northern-Clubs.  What happened to his speech impediment?  He was undergoing a remarkable metamorphosis, and he knew it.  His singing voice soon won him a place on TV’s ‘New Faces’.

In the late ‘70s Vartan’s face became a familiar feature in London’s magazines and music papers.  He had become a leading singer and producer in a number of famous West End night spots: The Celebrity Club in New Bond Street, the Talk of the Town in Leicester Square and other notable venues.  He also became a TV Director working for the BBC and the ITV, directing commercials, including Coca Cola and Martini for the Middle East, and video clips.  He directed the hit video clip ‘No Easy Walk to Freedom’ for Nelson Mandela’s release.  But it was his enquiringly nature for classical music that led him to a new field

When he was asked about his symphonic poem, ‘Drake Passage, which the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra recorded at Abbey Road Studios on 14 April 2015 with him conducting, he said, “I would hope to start a Post-Atonal Renaissance Era for the listener of elegant music”.