Recipient of The Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award from The Solti Foundation U.S., conductor Aram Demirjian has built a reputation as an engaging, dynamic presence on the podium. Widely acclaimed for his transformative work as Music Director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra (KSO), 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 KSO, Aram has led the orchestra to new artistic heights and 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 audiences and broaden the idea of what one can expect to see on the symphonic stage, with a particular emphasis on the music of American composers, living composers, and composers from groups underrepresented on the symphonic stage.
In demand as a guest conductor, Aram was hailed in a recent debut with the San Diego Symphony for “elicit[ing] dramatic, incisive performances from the orchestra” (San Diego Story). In recent seasons, Aram has appeared with the Philadelphia, Sarasota, and Breckenridge Music Festival orchestras; the Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, New England Conservatory, North Carolina, Omaha, Portland, San Antonio, San Diego, Santa Rosa, 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.
The 2022-23 season features Aram returning to Verizon Hall to conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra, plus subscription debuts with the Colorado Symphony conducting Tchaikovsky’s Fourth and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with Paul Huang, and Symphony San Jose conducting Price’s Symphony No. 1 and Grieg’s Piano Concerto with Jon Nakamatsu. In summer 2022, Aram debuts with Oregon Bach Festival, collaborating with trailblazing pianist Lara Downes on a program called “Variations on a Dream,” featuring Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement and the world premiere of Paola Prestini’s Let Me See the Sun. In Knoxville, he conducts an exciting range of repertoire, including the Southeast premiere of Jonathan Leshnoff’s Piano Concerto (a KSO co-commission), the KSO’s first-ever performance of William Levi Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony, a classical tribute to veterans called “Spirit and Service,” and Mozart’s Requiem featuring the Knoxville Choral Society.
Following the completion of a successful sixth season with the KSO, Aram’s innovative programming has yielded consistently fruitful artistic collaborations with an eclectic range of community partners. Recent seasons have included a fully-staged production of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide with Clarence Brown Theatre; a choreographed performance of Manuel da Falla’s El Amor Brujo with Appalachian Ballet Company; James DeMars’ SABAR: Concerto for African Drum and Orchestra with drum ensemble Indigenous Vibes; and performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony incorporating an ensemble from Tennessee School for the Deaf performing the Ode to Joy in American Sign Language. Aram and the KSO also regularly perform as part of the internationally renowned Big Ears Festival, most recently in a performance with jazz saxophonist and clarinetist Shabaka Hutchings. Early in his tenure, Aram instituted KSO: UnStaged, a series of experiential, multi-sensory events in non-traditional settings in Knoxville, co-curated by partners including craft breweries, yoga studios, and even an airplane manufacturing company. In April 2022, Aram, the KSO, and Tessa Lark premiered Michael Schachter’s Violin Concerto: Cycle of Life, a joint commissioned by the KSO and Knoxville Museum of Art. The project, which was inspired by the work of East Tennessee-based glass artist Richard Jolley, was profiled by the PBS show Craft in America.
Throughout his career, Aram 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.
The proud child of an immigrant family, Aram is American-born and of Armenian descent. He 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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