Meet the Music Director
"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 is a seat at the KSO table for you."
Aram Demirjian is the 8th Music Director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, internationally sought after for his dynamic performances, innovative programming concepts and distinctive ability to forge connections with both audiences and performers.
Under Demirjian’s galvanizing leadership, the KSO’s audiences have continued to grow and the KSO has routinely found itself in the regional and national spotlight. His charismatic rapport with audiences has brought East Tennesseans of all ages, backgrounds and circumstances to the concert hall, and his warm collaboration with the musicians has brought about meaningful artistic growth. Demirjian’s programming has earned praise for turning the KSO’s concerts into “the exhibition hall of living music” (Knox TN Today), featuring creative partnerships with local organizations including Appalachian Ballet, Cirrus Aircraft, Go! Contemporary Dance Works, Knox Brew Tours, the University of Tennessee, national ensembles like PROJECTTrio and American Modern Opera Company, plus two appearances in the Big Ears Music Festival. A landmark collaboration with the Clarence Brown Theater, presenting Bernstein’s Candide as part of the Bernstein Centenary celebration, headlines the 2018-19 season, and in 2020, the KSO will be one of four North American orchestras to be featured in SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras at the Kennedy Center, Washington, DC.
Demirjian is nationally recognized for his commitment to advancing new concert formats. In 2017, the Knoxville Symphony was one of 21 orchestras selected by the League of American Orchestras to receive a Futures Fund Grant, which underwrites KSO UnStaged, a new series of multi-sensory, music-centric events taking place in unconventional venues (a craft brewery, an airplane hanger) co-curated with other creative institutions in the city. As Associate Conductor of the Kansas City Symphony, he was instrumental in creating Classics Uncorked, a weeknight series that enhances the concert hall experience with thematic programming, narration, visual effects, musical demonstrations and audience interaction.
A devoted educator, Demirjian has created and conducted education and family concerts for orchestras across the country that touch the lives of over 50,000 young people annually. He was formerly on the faculty of New England Conservatory Preparatory School, where he conducted the String Repertory Orchestra, and he has conducted workshops and masterclasses with youth orchestras across the country, including the Massachusetts All State Orchestra at Symphony Hall Boston. In April 2016, he partnered with the Kansas-based non-profit Arts in Prison to curate a Beethoven-themed performance, featuring musicians from the Kansas City Symphony, for inmates at the Lansing Correctional Facility.
Beyond Knoxville, Demirjian maintains an ongoing relationship with The Philadelphia Orchestra, with which he conducts multiple concerts every season. In the United States, he has also conducted the Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Omaha, Portland, San Antonio, St. Louis and Wichita symphonies, the Minnesota and Sarasota orchestras, the Louisiana Philharmonic and appearances at the Tanglewood Music Center and Breckenridge Music Festival. Internationally, he has performed with Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal and Orquesta Sinfónico de Minería.
Demirjian is the winner of a 2017 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award and the 2011 Robert J. Harth Conducting Prize from the Aspen Music Festival, where he was a three-time Conducting Fellow in the Aspen Conducting Academy. He has appeared in masterclasses with renowned conductors including Bernard Haitink at the Lucerne Easter Festival and Kurt Masur at Manhattan School of Music. Demirjian holds a joint Bachelor of Arts in Music and Government from Harvard University and a Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting from New England Conservatory.