In the constellation of Armenian musicians from the first half of the twentieth century, between names like Gomidas Vartabed, Aram Khachatourian, Alexander Spendiarian, Parsegh Ganachian, and others, Romanos Melikian appears as a less shining star.
He was born on October 1, 1883, in the city of Kizlyar, in the region of Daghestan (Northern Caucasus). He received his primary education in the parochial school, and continued his studies at the diocesan school of Nor Nakhichevan, where his first music teacher was Kevork Chorekjian (the future Catholicos of All Armenians Kevork VI). In 1900, at the age of seventeen, he became the choirmaster of the church of Surp Kevork in Nor Nakhichevan. He graduated in 1902 and went to study at the musical school of Rostov. In those years, he had already arranged Armenian popular songs and liturgical hymns for choir. In 1905 he left for Moscow and, after a year of private classes, he was admitted to the Popular Conservatory and directed the choir of the Lazarian Institute.
Poor health and financial constraints forced Melikian to leave his education unfinished and return to Nor Nakhichevan. He then went to Tiflis, where he took a position as a music teacher at the Hovnanian School from 1908-1910. He gathered young musicians working within the local Armenian schools and created the Musical League in 1908 with composer Azat Manoukian. He continued composing songs for schools, using popular motifs.
He returned to school in 1910 and studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory until 1914. He went back to Tiflis in 1915 and continued teaching. He had his first authorial concert in 1920, at the age of thirty-seven. A year later, the government of Soviet Armenia invited him to Yerevan to found a musical studio, which became a conservatory two years later. In 1924 he went to Stepanakert, the new capital of Karabagh, and founded a music school, and then went back to Tiflis, where he led the activities of the musical section and the musical school of the Armenian Art House (Hayartun).
Romanos Melikian returned to Yerevan in 1926, where he established friendly relations with Spendiarian. He participated in the work of staging Spendiarian’s celebrated opera Almast and in the foundation of the Opera of Yerevan in 1933. He raised the issue of gathering Gomidas’ musical heritage in Armenia.
Composer, musician, and educator, Melikian continued producing songs until the end of his days. Some of them are still part of the repertoire of soloists and choirs. He passed away on March 30, 1935, in Tiflis, and was buried in the Pantheon of Yerevan. One of the musical schools of Yerevan is named after him, as well as streets in Yerevan and other cities of Armenia.