Meet the new Music Director
"I am extremely honored and excited to be named the next Music Director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra," said Aram Demirjian. "Knoxville is a city that is brimming with artistic possibility, and I believe the Symphony is poised to achieve great things in coming years.
As the newest member of the KSO family, I am eager to team up with my new colleagues and advance the great work being done by the Symphony on stage, in schools and out in the community. I firmly believe that classical music can be for everyone, and we are going to work hard to build a vibrant, inviting culture in which all Knoxvillians are inspired to share in the eye-opening symphonic experiences we create. No matter what your age, background or musical taste, there will be a seat at the KSO table for you."
Aram Demirjian is a dynamic emerging leader on the American musical landscape. Known for his “zeal and fresh perspective” (KC Metropolis) and “confident and expressive style” (Kansas City Star), Demirjian bridges the musical traditions of the past with the cultural appetites of the present, forging a magnetic rapport with audience members of all ages and backgrounds and creating inspiring musical experiences in both familiar and progressive concert formats.
Demirjian’s 2016/17 season includes multiple return engagements with the Louisiana Philharmonic, debuts with the Corpus Christi Symphony, Fresno Philharmonic and Illinois Symphony, and his European debut on the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra’s Dominicales series, which features rising conductors of the next generation. Recent highlights include debuts with the Minnesota Orchestra and the Auburn, Knoxville, Memphis and Omaha symphonies. Demirjian also is a frequent cover conductor with the Boston Symphony, where he has assisted Andris Nelsons, Christoph von Dohnányi, Manfred Honeck and others.
In his four years as Associate Conductor of the Kansas City Symphony (KCS), Demirjian conducted over 200 performances in the acoustically superb Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Among his most substantial achievements, he was instrumental in designing and launching Classics Uncorked, a widely acclaimed series that presents weeknight classical concerts, enhancing the concert hall experience with thematic programming, narration, visual effects, musical demonstrations and audience interaction. These programs have garnered effusive praise for their fun, casual atmosphere and diverse repertoire selection, attracting thousands of first-time and long-time patrons and earning the recognition of such organizations as 21cm Magazine, which featured the series as its January 2016 “POP Pick,” and the New World Symphony’s New Audiences Initiative.
Additional highlights of his time in Kansas City include conducting his subscription debut featuring Debussy’s La mer, annual performances of Handel’sMessiah and the wildly popular Screenland at the Symphony series, which combines full-length feature films with a live soundtrack from the orchestra.
In addition to his orchestral performances, Demirjian showcases his versatility in a variety of special projects. In 2014, he was featured as a guest artist in the Tanglewood Music Center’s Festival of Contemporary Music, conducting performances of Jacob Druckman’s Bo, and Kate Soper’s Helen Enfettered, which the New York Times hailed as the “most memorable” offering of the festival. He has collaborated with his alma mater, Harvard University, on two unique interdisciplinary events: Witness, a commemoration of the ratification of the Human Rights Accord, where he conducted Yo-Yo Ma and members of the Silk Road Ensemble in Dimitri Yanov-Yanovsky’s Night Music: Voices in the Leaves; andWhitman: Composed and Considered, a performance and conversation with John Adams, Harvard President Drew Faust and Professor Helen Vendler, where Demirjian conducted Adams’ The Wound Dresser. Equally comfortable in the opera pit as on the podium, in 2010 Demirjian produced, directed and conducted a charity performance of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in collaboration with Partners in Health: Symphonic Relief for Haiti, and he also has conducted productions of Bernstein’s Candide and Copland’s The Tender Land.
Demirjian was recently among seven conductors selected by renowned maestro Bernard Haitink as an active participant in the exclusive 2016 Haitink Masterclass at the Lucerne Easter Festival, where he was the only American in the class. As a three-time Conducting Fellow in the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen, Demirjian was awarded the Aspen Music Festival’s 2011 Robert J. Harth Conducting Prize, a distinction given to only one conductor annually. That same year, he won Third Prize in the Memphis Symphony International Conducting Competition. He has also received instruction from Maestro Kurt Masur in the 2012 Kurt Masur Conducting Seminar. A sincere believer in music’s capacity to empower, inspire and enrich, Demirjian is involved in a substantial breadth of education activities and initiatives for all ages. With the KCS, he programmed, scripted and conducted education concerts for nearly 45,000 elementary school students annually. He frequently serves as a clinician with middle and high school ensembles, most notably as the conductor of the 2014 Massachusetts All State Orchestra. At the college level, he is actively engaged in the work of the Composition Department at University of Missouri at Kansas City, appearing as a presenter in the Composers Forum and conducting annual orchestra readings for masters and doctoral composers. Demirjian also devotes time to adult learners by hosting pre-concert discussions, speaking about music to community and volunteer groups and, in April 2016, he will curate and host a Beethoven-themed performance, featuring musicians from the KCS, for inmates at the Lansing Correctional Facility.
Demirjian was one of only two conductors in the inaugural class of the distinguished Orchestral Conducting program at New England Conservatory, where he earned his Master of Music. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, in music and government from Harvard University, where his conducting career began with a two-year appointment as music director of the Harvard Bach Society Orchestra. His primary teachers and mentors include Hugh Wolff, Robert Spano, Larry Rachleff and Michael Stern.