A home that's a perfect backdrop for music and art

This painting from Armenia stretches across the Vosbikians' music room and incorporates images of musicians and musical instruments.
This painting from Armenia stretches across the Vosbikians' music room and incorporates images of musicians and musical instruments. (SHARON GEKOSKI-KIMMEL / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 13, 2012

In the music room of Ramona and Jack Vosbikian's Moorestown home, a silver picture frame rests on the baby grand piano. Does it hold a cherished family picture, perhaps? A fine painting?

No, but it's just as dear: Displayed are two ticket stubs from a 1971 Philadelphia Orchestra concert.

"We were newly married and struggling, but we managed to scrape together the $8.50 each for seats toward the back of the Academy," says Ramona, 71, of their first time. "It didn't matter - we were so excited just to be there."

Some things have changed since the couple were back-of-the-theater types; the orchestra's home is now the Kimmel Center, and the two are season subscribers. But their passion for music - and devotion to the orchestra - is just as strong. Ramona and Jack, who is the president of International Rollforms in Deptford, are principal benefactors of Thursday's Opening Night, the traditional gala start of the orchestra's season and the debut of music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

So it's no surprise that music's role in their home's decor literally begins in the front garden. There, a statue of a small boy holding a violin greets visitors. He's been affectionately named "Paganini" at the suggestion of Philadelphia Orchestra cellist Gloria DiPasquale. Italian-born Niccolò Paganini was playing the violin by the age of 7, so the name was apt.

Inside the Vosbikian home, the large foyer, with its soaring 18-foot ceiling and curved stairway, has actually become a mini-concert hall for orchestra benefits. The space can accommodate 70 to 80 people, some on the second-floor balcony for a dramatic view of the crystal chandelier, which would be at home in a Parisian or Viennese opera house.

The Vosbikians built the home in 2002 after 30 years in a more conventional house in Cherry Hill, what many think is counterintuitive for empty-nesters. The Vosbikians didn't see it that way.

"We really wanted exactly the kind of home we built - one with lots of open areas and room for our growing family," said Jack, 75. The couple has three children and five grandchildren. "And we did downsize," he quips of their 5,300-square-foot home. "Our Cherry Hill house had five bedrooms - this one only has four."

The couple borrowed ideas from various sources, from the outdoor elevation they saw at a Stone Harbor house to a local sample home they visited for interior design ideas. Lovers of the outdoors, they built the less formal living spaces - the kitchen/breakfast area and family room - with sweeping views of the gardens and the parklike setting they created over the years. A pergola and fountain - and another outdoor sculpture - add to the pleasures of spring and summer entertaining.

A soft off-white color palette in the formal living room and dining room in the front of the home provide a mellow backdrop for the Vosbikians' extensive art collection. As much as home is an anchor for them, the couple has traveled to every continent, including with the Philadelphia Orchestra on its forays to Hungary, Spain, England, Germany, and Switzerland, where they were witness to performances at the Lucerne Music Festival.

On a safari in Africa, the couple found a unique painting crafted from banana peels that now hangs in their living room. The dining room holds two pieces that spell out Ramona's and Jack's names in hieroglyphics. And one of the most meaningful art pieces is a painting that stretches across the music room wall. Abstract in style, it incorporates images of musicians and musical instruments, and was purchased in Armenia, where Jack's roots are.

"Early in the 20th century, my family fled the Armenian genocide and established their lives here," explains Jack, who has been active in the Armenian Assembly of America, a lobbying group dedicated to recalling and preserving that history. The Vosbikians have made three trips to that region in recent years.

There will be no forays far from home this month as the Vosbikians bring out their formal attire for Opening Night. Ramona's responsibilities as a member of the orchestra's board and chair of its education committee - along with other administrative duties - have kept her working nearly every day. She also serves on the board of Symphony in C - formerly known as the Haddonfield Symphony.

It's no wonder that on a typical day, the Vosbikians' sound system is playing classical music. One recent afternoon, Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G minor was offering its majestic background in the sunlit kitchen.

The two play some music themselves - Ramona, piano; Jack, clarinet - and it's in their blood. Her father played trumpet with the Benny Goodman Orchestra and his played multiple instruments with Armenian family bands. But their greatest joy now, they say, is in opening their home to events like a recent daylong retreat for the orchestra's teaching artists.

The bookmarks that Ramona distributes to hundreds of schoolchildren through the orchestra's education outreach program summarize the couple's personal anthem:

Borrowed from Friedrich Nietzsche, the saying reads: "Without music, life would be a mistake."

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