1920s/30s Gallery

Hovhaness with his parents c.1927

Hovhaness's father, Haroutioun Hovanes Chakmakjian, was born in 1878, into a farming family in Adana, in the former Armenia (now part of Turkey). Due to the Ottoman massacres he headed to France (being a French teacher) and then to America. A Harvard graduate, he taught Chemistry and Biochemistry at Tufts College, Boston. He lived a long life, much of it as a widower. Hovhaness fondly remembered many youthful treks with his father in the New Hampshire hills. Chakmakjian was a respected and well-liked man, although his own son maintained a rather distant relationship.

Hovhaness's mother, Madeleine Scott, was of Scottish-English ancestry and a Wellesley College graduate. Somewhat musical, she played Baptist hymns, which may have been Hovhaness's earliest musical experiences. She changed her son's surname to the more manageable "Vaness", although shortly after her early death (1930) the composer lengthened it to "Hovaness" and finally "Hovhaness".


 Photographer unknown.