Born and raised in Syria, Armenian classical guitarist Sako Dermenjian has started a new life in Australia, pursuing his dream of becoming a world-class guitarist and teacher after relocating following the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War. He will be one of several migrant and refugee artists performing at the New Beginnings Festival in Spring at Darling Harbour on November 18.

Dermenjian’s grandmother gave him his first guitar when he was seven years old. “My parents’ taste in music drew me to guitar and let me be more passionate towards this instrument,” he told Limelight.

Sako Dermenjian, guitaristGuitarist Sako Dermenjian

Dermenjian studied in Damascus. “My great childhood teacher Mazen Al-Saleh was my only teacher from 2004 to 2011, then I was self-taught for five years,” he said. “John Williams, Paco De Lucia, Al Di Meola and Tommy Emmanuel were my favourite guitarists of all time.”

Dermenjian left Syria at the age of 17, when war broke out in the country, becoming one of more than 1.5 million refugees to flee Syria since the start of the war. He eventually settled in Australia.

“When you go out of your house in Syria, you don’t know if you’ll...