Nathan Avakian, Performing Artist

Award: 2010 Outstanding Achievement in the Performing Arts by a High School Student
Article Contributed by Susan Gallacher-Turner

“It’s given me inspiration, to go out and be successful.”

Nathan Avakian, 2010 Beaverton Arts Commission Scholarship Winner, knows he couldn’t do it alone. It’s the support of his family, teachers and the arts community together that allowed him to pursue his passion in theater arts. He was excited and surprised when he won the 2010 Outstanding Achievement in the Performing Arts by a high school student award as a senior from the Arts & Communication Magnet Academy(ACMA). 

Nathan said, “This community has been extremely supportive with everything I’ve done starting with grade school. I went to Bethany Elementary; we had a great music teacher. I’m so fortunate that a school like ACMA existed. But to get this award from the Beaverton Arts Commission was really reassurance that the community really does support the arts in high schools.” 

Like many young artists, Nathan Avakian’s interest in theater started at home where he wrote and directed plays starring a cast of classmates. The one he remembers most was a musical called, “The End of School Play”, about kids throwing a party in the classroom when the teacher is away. His father helped him build a stage complete with curtains and light fixtures so that he could put on his theater productions.

“I’ve been so fortunate to have parents who whole heartedly supported all these interests. There are not many families that would let their 7 year old, put tacks and nails all over their entry way, put tap shoes on and run all around their house, so I’m very thankful that they let me do that, cause that’s what really got me started,” said Nathan.

From a small stage at home, Nathan’s artistic passions have grown throughout the years. He’s taken lessons in ballet, jazz and tap dancing as well as playing the piano and theatre organ.

It was a family visit to the Organ Grinder Restaurant in Portland that started Nathan’s interest in theatre organs. In 2009, he won the American Theatre Organ Society Young Theatre Organist Competition and as a result will be touring in Australia and New Zealand next summer. His interest in theatre organ performance also led him to organize a different kind of concert incorporating NW Fusion Dance Company and theatre organ music. His unique variety show called, “Outside the Box”, brought in about 400 people, most of whom had never heard theatre organ music before. This is another passion of Nathan’s to break new ground with this old instrument.

Nathan said, “I love creating new things. Specifically with the organ performance, I’m trying to do is break the stereotype of the theatre organ where people only play music of the 20’s and 30’s and silent films. Theater organs can play more popular music. So I’m trying to find ways to create things that have never been created before with the instrument.”

Scholarship winner, Nathan Avakian, is a multi-talented young man with many artistic interests including dancing, singing, playing the organ, writing, directing and acting. Some may think that so many artistic passions might be difficult to pursue, but not according to Nathan, “It all relates to theater. There’s something that intrigues me about every aspect of theater. I started doing a lot of writing and directing but I also tackled the lighting and the sound.”

As Nathan leaves Beaverton to major in lighting design at the State University of New York at Purchase, he knows that it was all the support including the Beaverton Arts Commission Scholarship that helped him achieve his goals. “This money is going to help off set tuition, books and supplies. So this is a huge financial help,” said Nathan.

Nathan looks forward to bringing his passion back to the community. He said, “As an artist, when you create good art it really feels like you’re channeling from something greater than yourself. It’s a very pleasing feeling and it’s something I want to share with others. I think the amazing thing about theater is that it takes so many people to pull together a production. It’s so great when people come to sit in on that experience. Live theater to me is really something special.”