Casting a vision for the next three years

KSO announces extension of Aram Demirjian contract

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra announced on Monday, Nov. 12 that the KSO Board of Directors has extended Maestro Aram Demirjian’s contract as Music Director for three years beyond the current three year contract that began in 2016. This extension takes Maestro Demirjian through the 2021-2022 season.

Highlights of the first three seasons of Demirjian’s Tenure

Seen & Heard In the Concert Hall

When selecting musical programming, Aram renewed the focus on American works and highlighted works by female composers. Audiences have heard music of William Grant Still, Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, plus contemporary composers Christopher Theofanidis, Jonathan Leshnoff, Michael Schacter, and Mason Bates. Works by female composers include Florence Price’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Price’s Dances in the Canebrakes, Caroline Shaw’s Entr’acte, plus the upcoming performances of Rachel Grimes’ Book of Leaves in January 2019, Jesse Montgomery’s “Banner” in April 2019, and Conni Ellisor’s Blackberry Winter in 2020, a piece for solo mountain dulcimer and string orchestra (already heard at a KSO community performance at Second Presbyterian Church for their 200th Anniversary). In Sept. 2017, the KSO commissioned Michael Schachter’s “Overture to Knoxville” and performed the world premiere.

The number of Masterworks subscriptions sold is up 12% since prior to Aram’s arrival. Subscription sales to the KSO’s Masterworks Series are the highest they have been since the 2011-12 season. The number of Masterworks single tickets sold increased 24% in Aram’s first full season as music director, which was the 2016-17 season. That level of sales was sustained in the 2017-18 season.

KSO goes “UnStaged.”

In the past two symphony seasons (2016-17 and 2017-18), the KSO created a new series of multi-sensory, music-centric events taking place in unconventional venues. Aram conducted the KSO at breweries, airplane hangars, with event themes surrounding yoga, craft beer, and visual art. The first three events were each well-received and brought in new audiences. The next UnStaged event is April 18, 2019 at the Knoxville Museum of Art and fittingly entitled, Vision.

Candide – a Centennial Celebration

In a landmark collaboration with the Clarence Brown Theatre, the KSO and CBT presented Leonard Bernstein’s Candide as part of the Bernstein Centenary celebration. Aram conducted the KSO with a nationally-auditioned cast of performers from the opera and musical theater worlds in a total of 17 fully-staged performances for more than 10,000 patrons on the CBT main stage. With the orchestra placed on stage, Demirjian was at the center of the action, even entering into it at certain moments in the plot.



What’s next?

SHIFT Festival of American Orchestras

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra was selected as one of four North American orchestras to be featured in the 2020 SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras at the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C. Not only will the entire Knoxville Symphony Orchestra perform a concert in D.C. on the national stage, but two community programs, a Music and Wellness visit and an UnStaged “craft beer” themed event, will take place in the DC community bringing some Knoxville style and flavor to our nation’s capital.

Annual Symphony Ball

The Knoxville Symphony’s signature fundraiser has grown in attendance, auction items, and FUN! Save the date for Saturday, March 30, 2019 for the annual symphony ball, this year with the theme “Broadway Melody” presented by the Knoxville Symphony League. By incorporating a performance by the Knoxville Symphony plus Aram as the emcee, participants can expect an evening of dinner, dancing, and celebrating the symphony in style!

KSO Commission 2020: Cycle of Life

American Glass Artist Richard Jolley’s installation, Cycle of Life, was installed in the Knoxville Museum of Art in 2014. Cycle of Life reveals Richard’s exceptional artistic rigor and vision—an aesthetically stunning masterwork that is also an engineering marvel. Richard Jolley’s work explores the human body in formats ranging from colored glass “line drawings” to brightly colored figures and totems. Thanks to an important partnership with the Knoxville Museum of Art, the KSO will commission a brand new piece of music composed by Michael Schachter inspired by the Cycle of Life. Violinist Philippe Quint will be the featured soloist on this work for Violin and Orchestra. The premiere is set for May 2020 on the KSO Masterworks stage and will create a musical experience inspired by the seven-part narrative of Jolley’s work, allowing patrons to be immersed in multiple art forms.

About Aram Demirjian

As the 8th Music Director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Demirjian is deeply involved in a substantial breadth of artistic, education and community outreach initiatives with the goal of ensuring that East Tennesseans of all ages, backgrounds and circumstances have access to great symphonic music. He served previously as the Associate Conductor of the Kansas City Symphony, and he is a sought after guest conductor with orchestras across the country, including The Philadelphia Orchestra, with which he works frequently. Demirjian is the winner of the 2017 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award and the 2011 Robert J. Harth Conducting Prize from the Aspen Music Festival.


“The energy Demirjian brought to Knoxville is evident,” said Board President, Russ Watkins. “The past two seasons have been filled to the brim with exciting musical programming and performances, and thoughtful engagement in the community. Demirjian has a presence on and off stage that welcomes audience members, friends, and patrons alike to engage with him and the Orchestra. We are eager and enthusiastic to have him continue implementing his vision for the KSO over the next three years.”

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