TURKOFAMERICA awards our own girl for art and culture click here.
Everything, if you know former Miss Oklahoma, Demetra George Mustafaoğlu and her husband Mehmet Mustafaoğlu!
A girl met a boy in Kansas and fell in love at first sight. The boy and girl married a year later honeymooned in Turkey and girl was immediately in love with country. The boy took his girl to Cyprus to meet his family and she fell in love with Anne Baykan, dad Mustafa and sisters Hulya and Alev.
Once again, she fell in love with the country, people and culture. War broke out in Cyprus in 1974 and the couple fled on the last plane out on the last 2 seats to Beirut. During the coup, Demetra fell in love with the Istiklal Marşı (the national anthem of the Republic of Turkey) on TV during the coup fighting, learned it as an opera singer, and has performed it in all major US cities, and at Consulates in Istanbul, Izmir and Cyprus for over 30 years. She also performs the Azerbaijan and US anthems frequently, and actually was the first American to perform in concert with the 100 piece Baku Philharmonic Orchestra.
Mehmet’s work moved them to Houston, then Los Angeles, Boston, Palm Beach, and back to Los Angeles where they quickly became involved in all the organizations serving, sharing, and engaging the 2 communities. Ms. George was the resident soprano for the Houston Gilbert and Sullivan Society; the Palm Beach Opera, Boca Pops and Palm Beach Gilbert and Sullivan Society; and resident soprano for the Nevada Opera Theatre in Las Vegas.
Demetra so loved the Mediterranean culture that she learned to speak the Turkish language fluently so she could make new friends and help people wherever they lived.
She found time in her career to perform with over 750 orchestras, perform 18 opera leads and 20 in musical theatre, and win the Miss Teenage America Talent Award and swimsuit and talent awards as Miss Oklahoma to Miss America. Her love of music shone as she was a finalist in the Metropolitan, Fuchs and Zachary International Opera competitions and won the Western Region San Francisco Opera Competitions. In 2000 and 2001 her CD, “Demetra George Sings Love Arias” was nominated for a Grammy in classical music. Her first love actually was musical theatre which is evidenced by the placement of 14 young students in lead roles on Broadway from her studio.
The couple raised two gorgeous and successful daughters Devran Kovacoglu and Deniz Ahmadinia. The girls came to Turkey and Cyprus every summer because mommy loved the culture and wanted the family to share in it. The entire family became involved in community events wherever they lived hosting and organizing, participating as a family.
Mr. Mustafaoğlu is a distinguished businessman and a Turkish-American community leader. On May 11, 2002, he was awarded the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honour and his name entered into the Congressional Record. He is the first American citizen of Turkish and Turkish Cypriot heritage to receive this award. Six Presidents of the United States have received this award, as well as many Members of Congress, Nobel Prize winners, prominent scientists, distinguished businessmen such as Rupert Murdoch and outstanding military heroes such as Generals Norman Schwartzkopf and Colin Powell. In 1994, in recognition of his entrepreneurial accomplishments, Palm Beach Atlantic University awarded him the companion American Free Enterprise Medal. In October 2001, he received the Outstanding Achievement in Business Award in a joint meeting of the Jewish American Congress and American Turkish Association of Southern California. In February 2004, he was given the Distinguished Turkish-American Businessman Award by the then Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan.
Demetra is the Founder of the Turkish American Ladies League in Southern California which she named and it’s affectionately called TALL. The organization is almost 15 years young and the most innovative of all the groups in California and supported by an amazing group of professional women with the like idea of raising awareness about Turkish people and culture, to introduce Turkey to the west and do charity work for women, children and the blind children in the US and abroad. She fell in love with this goal and is President Emeritus and still deeply involved to this day and planning an upcoming event in September at the Turkish Consulate.
The couple decided after their girls were married to spend some time in North Cyprus, Mehmet’s birthplace. They built Villa Diva which has hosted dignitaries from the world over and presented charity events for many in need there, including orphans, handicapped children, children with cancer and leukemia and made fundraising enjoyable for all through musical events that raised much needed funds. Last year’s Halloween Happening brought 600 spooks, pirates and princesses to their home who were fed, treated to a musical concert by Demetra and friends and enjoyed an exciting costume competition!
Bellapais Abbey which she loves to sing in has been her major concert venue but after the US STATE DEPARTMENT gave her a Cultural Diplomacy Award, she organized CONCERTS WITHOUT BORDERS and presented cross cultural events with Greek Cypriot artists and new friend and mezzo Katie Economidou to present a desire for friendship across the green line of the island and her efforts are ongoing for unity.
In 2015 Demetra orchestrated the kickoff concert and event for TAAB-Turkish American Artist Bridge in LA to organize the exchange of all styles of arts between Turkey and the US. It appears that without knowing, SHE became the great cultural exchange as she performs at events in Turkey to raise money for their charities and share international music. Demetra can sing in 10 languages but giggles when she tells you she shops in EVERY language. Her favourite place to shop? Can you guess? She LOVES Kapali Çarşı (the Covered Bazaar) who wouldn’t? Fun hunting for beautiful handmade things and latest fashions in the bazaar. She tells us she took her 2 best California girlfriends Giovanna D’Angelo, Dr. Deborah Deeley, her cousin from Chicago Deborah Damato and former Miss America from Oklahoma, Jayne Jaroye Gamble to the bazaar and spent an entire day soaking up the art and culture of Turkey. By 8 pm the guards were begging them to go to dinner so they could lock the gates as it was way past their 6 pm closing time but just let the ladies stay to shop as they were having such fun.
Demetra even serenaded jewellery shop owners in the Bedesten with the Istiklal Marşı as they didn’t believe she knew it. Out came the crew from their bargaining to thunderous applause. Tea and treats were brought and prices dropped a little for all the shoppers!! Oh how she loves, loves the Covered Bazaar and has old friends there to greet her. Every year, gifts come to the family and to the organizations to raffle off for charity that she hand picks. “Deme”, as her dear friend from Istanbul & Bel Air, Nevin Senkan calls our 5’8” Diva, “LOVES what she does”.
In 2015 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and decided it was time to step up her charity work so she went into production of events for fundraising and her shows in Cyprus and Turkey have found a great following from all cultures whether it’s Demetra alone and maestro Rauf Kasimov or her team (Countertenor Haran) Ateş and Diva. Shows are a fun combination of Opera, Broadway and film music, very unique for these countries. She wanted to be a school teacher but luckily went into music. She adores teaching and by invitation of Didem Çapa and Demet Sabancı, gave a 3 day master class in Istanbul for children through Yaratıcı Çocuklar Derneği. The ladies have become dear friends and Deme loved all 150 kids!!!
She also found time to privately teach a few students abroad. A special one she especially loves performs with the team, Ms. Peri Sualp from the English School of Kyrenia whom audiences adore. She, Ateş and Diva have performed 5 shows and are in demand as we speak. Now if they can just finish the elections in Turkey, the team can venture forward and book those dates for remaining 2018 and 2019. They also hope to perform in the US in the future.
October will hold a concert in Cyprus for Demetra to be announced shortly and another in Istanbul.
And she has promised to appear in person to serenade at the Türk of America Awards banquet next year. So, really,
LOVE has everything to do with it!