BIOGRAPHY AND EULOGY OF MARIE ANN “MARO” DONABEDIAN
Marie Ann “Maro” Donabedian was born on July 15, 1928, to Lazar and Arshalous Manoogian in New Britain, Connecticut.
Marie was a precocious child with natural musical talent and unbridled drive. As early as five years old, she quickly built a reputation as “that girl who plays beyond her years.” She became a fixture on Sunday mornings, playing the church organ at the local Armenian church in New Britain. While she was in high school, she won the Musical Directors Hall of Fame Award, which was given to her by Dr. Fred Mirliani, Musical Director of New Britain High School. Maro earned the reputation as the finest accompanist the high school had ever produced.
Marie graduated from high school in 1945, and was accepted by and attended the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York City. After her graduation four years later, she spent the following three years as an accompanist for virtually all of the leading Armenian opera and classical singers of the day. When an accompanist was needed, Maro was the “go-to” pianist.
While living in New York, she became close friends and shared her passion for music with a young priest who later became known as His Beatitude Torkom Manoogian, Patriarch of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Together, they shared their love for Armenian folk and liturgical music, and Maro would often play as Father Torkom sang the beautiful and haunting songs written by Armenian composers and priests.
In 1953, at the age of twenty-five, Marie married a handsome ex-Marine, and Ivy Leaguer, Martin Donabedian. From that time until her death she became known as Maro Donabedian.
Over the following decade Maro and Martin had three children, Laura, Randy Hrant, and Noel Martin. In 1963, Maro and Martin moved their young family from New Britain, Ct. to Van Nuys, California, where they each began a new chapter in their careers and where they became part of an extended family that resulted in lifelong friendships.
Martin went to work for the Los Angeles County Health Department as Director of Records and Statistics. Maro joined the music department at California State University of Northridge (originally San Fernando Valley State College) in 1964 where she became a full-time accompanist. She began working and collaborating with the late Dr. David Scott, and together they founded the opera department at CSUN. Today the CSUN opera department enjoys national distinction as one of the top five programs in the country. It has produced some of the country’s finest opera singers, whose talents and vocal skills were honed and polished under the loving but firm coaching by Dr. Scott and Maro.
Maro’s close friendship and professional partnership with Dr. Scott lasted almost fifty years. Dr. Scott recently passed away in July of 2012, but Maro was spared that sad news because of her declining health.
Maro officially retired from CSUN in 1992. However, her retirement did not mean that she stopped tutoring students from CSUN. In fact, Maro continued to act as accompanist and vocal coach for vocal students and was often seen on campus at recitals for her students, until as recently as June 2012, when she began her final journey toward the end of her life. The department chairs at CSUN consistently gave Maro evaluations that were glowing, calling her services to the music departments “vital,” and “outstanding.” One of her colleagues recently attributed the success of the CSUN vocal programs to Maro’s musical contributions over the years.
Maro not only guided hundreds of students to become successes in voice, she also taught students how to properly play the piano, insisting on the same degree of perfection as her vocal students. She also generously contributed her musical talents to the Armenian community, and to her church, St. Peter Armenian Apostolic Church, both as an organist, vocal accompanist, and as a mentor to Armenian musicians studying piano, voice and accompaniment. Some of her protégés remained close friends with her until her death.
While Maro’s family and extended family were the very heart of her life, music was her passion. She shared that passion with those she taught, and she instilled in them the same love and respect for music that she felt, while insisting on near perfection from each of her students. Her firm hand of guidance was always tempered with love, and her efforts produced excellence in her students.
Maro’s journey on this earth has ended; however, the hundreds of people who knew and loved her know that she has simply moved on to coach and accompany a much larger choir – one whose music will sing in the hearts of those who remain on this earth for eternity. Her legacy is one that cannot be duplicated, but it will be remembered and shared by those whom she touched with her amazing love and talent.
Maro was preceded in death by her parents Lazar and Arshalous Manoogian and her older brother Harold Manoogian. She is survived by her beloved husband Martin, daughter Laura and son-in-law Michael, son Randy Hrant and daughter-in-law Patricia, son Noel, and grandchildren Danielle and Rachel Dale, and Jacqueline and Patrick Donabedian, as well as extended family and lifelong dear friends. She will be missed by her entire family, which, by her definition, embraces all of her students, friends and former colleagues in the world of music.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made payable to and mailed to the "CSUN Foundation," Memo: Maro Donabedian Memorial Fund; Mail Drop 8236, MCCAMC, 18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge, CA 91330.