Michael Avetisyan: “It was my father who provided guidance when I was choosing my profession”

In an interview with Hayern Aysor, U.S.-based Armenian conductor Michael Avetisyan touched upon his career, past activities and shared great memories of his beloved father, renowned composer, canon player, People’s Artist of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic and recipient of the State Award of the Republic of Armenia Khachatur Avetisyan.

As a beginning

1984 – graduated from the Piano Department and later Composing Department of Yerevan Tchaikovsky Intermediate Vocational Music School

1989 – graduated from the Opera and Symphonic Conducting Department of Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory (student of Professor Hakob Voskanyan)

1991 – obtained PhD under direction of Ohan Duryan at Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory

1985-90 – took conducting lessons from Professor Ilya Musin at St. Petersburg Conservatory

1996 – participated in the 35th Kiril Kondrashin Conducting Master Classes with Sir Eduard Dounes and Peter Eotvos in Holland

1991-97 – taught conducting at Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory and was conductor of the Orchestra of the National Radio and Television of the Republic of Armenia and the National Academic Theater of Opera and Theater

1994-97 – conducted Yerevan Symphony Orchestra

Michael Avetisyan has performed in the USA, France, Holland, Greece, Spain, Russia and Turkey.

He has conducted European orchestras and the symphony orchestra of the former USSR. In 1996, he released his RCD featuring his performances with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.

Hayern Aysor: Maestro, you have been living in the United States for many years. Do you maintain your ties with Armenia?

Michael Avetisyan: I moved to the United States in 1999, and I have not cut off my ties with Armenia at all. There are always occasions to visit the homeland and meet with my friends. Armenia conveys energy and makes me work harder.

Hayern Aysor: Let’s talk about your activities in the United States.

Michael Avetisyan: I established the Glendale Symphony Orchestra. After it was disbanded, a group of young performers and I established the Glendale Philharmonic Orchestra, but it was also disbanded in spite of its prolific activities.

Two years ago, I established the Zangakatun Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra and I gave a wonderful concert for a packed audience and invited world famous German-Armenian violinist Sergey Khachaturyan.

Hayern Aysor: Are you an active member of the Armenian community?

Michael Avetisyan: In the first years after I settled in the United States, I received an invitation to be the choirmaster of the 50-year choir of the Iranian-Armenian Society of Los Angeles. Every year, we give a concert featuring performances of classical, pop and folk songs and songs in other genres. I try to organize theater concerts with this choir.

Alongside this, I have been the head of the Armenian Youth Association of California in Los Angeles for the past five years. In 2015, the choir participated in the “My Armenia” Pan-Armenian Festival organized by the Ministry of Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia and received the Gold Medal of the Ministry.

Most of the members of the orchestra are foreigners who perform Armenian music with great joy and pleasure.

Hayern Aysor: What was the purpose of your visit this time?

Michael Avetisyan: Director of Naregatsi Art Institute Nareg Hartounian sent me a letter stating that the Institute had decided to host a series of events devoted to Khachatur Avetisyan on the occasion of the 13th anniversary of the Institute. Besides the concert, the Institute also hosted an exhibition featuring Avetisyan’s personal items (canon, Bible, etc.). It was a pleasure for me to participate in all the events. I always express my admiration of the pro-national efforts of Naregatsi Art Institute, which gathers young talented Armenians.

Hayern Aysor: Was it your father’s image that led you to reach the peak you are at now?

Michael Avetisyan: First, I must say that my father was a demanding father. He provided guidance when it came time for me to choose my profession. When I was 6, he noticed my interest in the piano and in composing and affirmatively decided that I had to pursue a career in music.

Living in a building of composers throughout my childhood, I was lucky to interact with great Armenians such as Alexander Harutyunyan, Grigor Hakhinyan, Ghazaros Saryan, Vardan Atchemyan, Emin Aristakesyan, Avet Terteryan, Konstantin Orbelyan and others. Their names were a standard in the world of music.

I always remember their commotion and how they would talk about different topics at our house. I am thankful for that share of destiny.

Hayern Aysor: What has been the most precious advice your father has given you?

Michael Avetisyan: In general, all of his words of advice were very important and instructive. I recalled an episode at this moment. When I was conducting the “Gaiane” ballet at the Alexander Spendiaryan National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet, before the first act, my father approached me and said he was more than happy about the fact that people would now recognize him as the father of Michael Avetisyan and not the opposite. I will always remember those words.

Hayern Aysor: Which of your father’s works is your favorite?

Michael Avetisyan: When my father was asked what his favorite work was, he would say that he accepts all of his works as his children. I also give that answer, taking into consideration the love and devotion that Armenians have for and to Khachatur Avetisyan and his works to this day.

Interview by Gevorg Chichyan

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