Boston Pops Violinist Sprouts His Wings

BOSTON, Mass.—What does it take to be a teenaged violinist with the Boston Pops?

Just ask 17-year-old Sammy Andonian, who will be making the appearance of a lifetime June 5 at Armenian Night at the Pops.

Sammy Andonian
Sammy Andonian

“A privilege and an honor,” says the Lincoln-Sudbury High School student. “Every young violinist dreams of such an opportunity.”

It’s an opportunity of a lifetime for the virtuoso who took up cello at the age of 4 and just saw his musical career spiral to uncharted heights. Four years later, he added the violin to his repertoire.

Sammy will be performing an eclectic violin concerto by Felix Mendelssohn during an evening dedicated to another great composer, Alan Hovhaness, whose solemn “Prayer of St. Gregory” will be a special remembrance of the Armenian Genocide victims.

“I’m very pleased to be performing in a concert that will feature one of his compositions, especially since he was a musician of Armenian descent who lived in the Boston area,” Sammy points out. “I can relate to that.”

Of the many Hovhaness pieces, Sammy’s personal favorite happens to be “Mysterious Mountain,” and for good reason. He has played that composition for orchestra.

The young violinist attributes his success to the many teachers, peers, composers, and performers along the way, especially his parents Samuel and Jennifer Andonian of Lincoln.

“Although not directly, I have certainly been influenced by the famous violin pedagogue of Armenian descent Ivan Galamian,” Sammy notes. “My teachers and their teachers have had the opportunity to study with Mr. Galamian. His contribution to violin pedagogy has influenced my playing very much.”

As a sophomore, Sammy won a concerto competition, sponsored by the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra.

That earned the teen an opportunity to perform the Mendelssohn “Violin Concerto in E Minor” during a show at Kresge Auditorium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

This is far from Sammy’s first music award. In 2013, he was the 1st place winner of the Walden Chamber Players’ Young Artists Competition; the New England Philharmonic’s Young Artists Competition; Wellesley Symphony Orchestra’s Young Soloist Competition; and Brockton Symphony’s Feinberg Youth Competition.

He’s been a member of the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra since 2008 and served as principal cellist in the All-State Orchestra while playing with the New England Conservatory’s Youth Philharmonic Orchestra.

It hasn’t been an easy road traveled, not in the least when you reach this level of your musical life. Countless hours of practice each week goes with the territory. Scales. Arpeggios. Double stops and an etude. Never mind the solo works, concertos, sonatas, show pieces, and solo violin pieces like Bach.

Sammy handles it with passion and persistence.

“It takes a variety of different skills to become an accomplished musician,” he confirms. “But, most importantly, it takes love and dedication.”

The boy’s mother happens to be a pianist who introduced him to music and the cello before he even started school. The Mendelssohn piece he’ll be playing is special.

“It’s been referred to as the heart’s jewel by the famous violinist Joseph Joachim,” he explains. “When working on the piece, I was able to improve a lot as a musician. Learning it has led to many wonderful opportunities like this one.”

Upon graduation, Sammy hopes to turn professional and continue playing classical music, sharing his wonderful talent with others.

The Pops concert will also include a host of usual favorites conducted by Maestro Keith Lockhart. Tickets are available for purchase online by visiting


Some personal favorites


Hobby: Playing chamber music with friends and attending concerts

School subject: German

College aspiration: Violin performance major

Violinist: Russian David Oistrakh

Composers: Aram Khachaturian and Johannes Brahms

Relaxation: Exploring the city and nature trails by foot

Vacation spot: Traveling both to Vienna and Salzburg in Austria for its rich classical music

Quote: “Without craftsmanship, inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind,” by Johannes Brahms


Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.

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