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 will be a seat at the KSO table for you."
Aram Demirjian is sought after as a conductor for his dynamic performances, insightful interpretations and charismatic rapport with audiences. American-born and of Armenian descent, Demirjian is Music Director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and maintains an active guest conducting schedule, including a close relationship with The Philadelphia Orchestra.
Recently completing his first season as Music Director with the KSO, Demirjian is already leaving his mark on the region’s musical culture with creative programming, innovative collaborations and energetic community engagement, which has spurred substantial growth in concert attendance. He conducts 14 weeks on the upcoming KSO season, including partnerships with Appalachian Ballet, Knoxville Poet Laureate R.B. Morris and the genre-busting chamber group PROJECT Trio, plus repertoire ranging from Bach to Carmina burana to a world premiere KSO commission by American composer Michael Schachter.
Demirjian also enjoys frequent collaborations with The Philadelphia Orchestra, with which he conducted three family and education programs in the 2016-17 season and served as a cover conductor for Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Principal Guest Conductor Stéphane Denève. Other highlights of that season include Demirjian’s first appearances with the St. Louis, Indianapolis and San Antonio symphonies, two return engagements with the Louisiana Philharmonic and his European debut with the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra. In 2017-18, Demirjian’s calendar includes two programs in Philadelphia, at The Mann Center and Verizon Hall, debuts with the Detroit Symphony and Sarasota Orchestra, a re-engagement with the Omaha Symphony and a performance with the New England Conservatory Symphony.
Demirjian is nationally recognized for his commitment to exploring new concert formats. In 2017, the League of American Orchestras awarded the Knoxville Symphony a distinguished Futures Fund Grant, in part to launch KSO UnStaged, an interactive, multisensory, music-based event series taking place in unconventional spaces throughout Knox County. As Associate Conductor of the Kansas City Symphony, Demirjian 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 champion of new music, Demirjian recently conducted the Southeast premiere and second-ever performance of Matthew Aucoin’s Evidence, a highlight of the 2017 Big Ears Festival. Demirjian was a guest conductor at the 2014 Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music and the 2013 Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. He also has performed alongside Yo-Yo Ma and members of the Silk Road Ensemble on a Silk Road commission and has collaborated with John Adams in a performance and colloquium on Adams’ The Wound Dresser.
Demirjian is involved in a substantial breadth of education and community outreach initiatives with the goal of ensuring that everyone, regardless of age, background or circumstance, has access to great symphonic music. He has programmed, scripted and conducted education concerts with orchestras across the country, and he will lead the KSO's Young People's Concerts and Very Young People's Concerts in the 2017-18 season. In April 2016, he partnered with the non-profit Arts in Prison to curate and host a Beethoven-themed performance, featuring musicians from the Kansas City Symphony, for inmates at the Lansing Correctional Facility. He also frequently serves as a clinician with middle and high school ensembles, most notably as the conductor of the 2014 Massachusetts All State Orchestra.
Demirjian is a recipient of the Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award in 2017 and holds 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 Bachelor of Arts in music and government from Harvard University and a Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting from New England Conservatory.