Conductor Aram Demirjian is the 2020 recipient of The Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award from The Solti Foundation U.S. Widely acclaimed for his transformative work as the music director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra (KSO) and frequent appearances with The Philadelphia Orchestra, he is sought after for his "graceful, energetic direction" (Sarasota Herald Tribune), bold programming, and distinctive communication skills with audience members and musicians alike.
As the eighth Music Director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Aram has brought the orchestra to new artistic heights. Under his leadership, the orchestra has seen sustained increases in ticket revenue, in addition to national recognition for its achievements, including being selected in 2020 as one of four orchestras to be featured at SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras, presented by the Kennedy Center and Washington Performing Arts.
His visionary programming emphasizes cross-disciplinary collaboration and initiatives that both excite and expand the listening palette of the KSO audience, with a particular focus on the music of living American composers and composers from underrepresented groups on the symphonic stage. These include projects with nationally renowned partners such as the Big Ears Festival, Violins of Hope, and PROJECT Trio, and regional partnerships with contemporary music ensemble Nief-Norf, poetry collective The Fifth Woman, and West African drum ensemble Indigenous Vibes. Early in his tenure, Aram instituted KSO: UnStaged, a series of experiential, multi-sensory events in non-traditional settings in Knoxville, co-curated by community partners including craft breweries, yoga studios, and museums. In late 2021, Aram can be seen on the PBS show Craft in America as part of a feature on the KSO/Knoxville Museum of Art joint commission Cycle of Life, a violin concerto by Michael Schachter, to be premiered with violinist Tessa Lark in April 2022.
During the 20-21 season, Aram programmed a collaborative hybrid season for the KSO, collaborating with eight different Knoxville-based cultural partners including Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, Beck Cultural Exchange Center, Knoxville Poet Laureate Rhea Carmon, Marble City Opera, Go! Contemporary Dance Works, traditional Irish band Four Leaf Peat, and Zoo Knoxville, in addition to spearheading KSO1x1, a series of 24 micro-commissions spotlighting the individual members of the orchestra.
Aram’s guest conducting highlights include engagements with the Philadelphia, Sarasota, and Breckenridge Music Festival orchestras, the Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, New England Conservatory, North Carolina, Omaha, Portland, San Antonio, St. Louis, and Tucson symphonies, and the Louisiana and Orlando philharmonics. Internationally, he has conducted the Orquesta Sinfónico de Minería, Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, and Orchéstre Métropolitain de Montréal. Aram is scheduled to make upcoming appearances with the KSO, in addition to debuts with the Colorado, San Diego, and Santa Rosa symphonies.
Throughout Aram’s career, he has worked with internationally renowned conductors Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Stéphane Denève, Alan Gilbert, Bernard Haitink, Manfred Honeck, Louis Langrée, Fabio Luisi, Kurt Masur, and Antonio Pappano, and collaborated with an illustrious roster of artists including Julia Bullock, Augustin Hadelich, Stefan Jackiw, Yo-Yo Ma, Nicholas Phan, Jason Vieaux, and Joyce Yang.
In addition to being honored with the 2020 Solti Award, Aram also received the 2017 and 2019 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Awards; a 2018 Solti Foundation U.S. Buccheri Opera Residency with Lyric Opera of Chicago (for Massenet's Cendrillon, assisting Sir Andrew Davis); 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. From 2012 to 2016, he served as Associate Conductor of the Kansas City Symphony.
American born and of Armenian descent, Aram 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.
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