Conductor Aram Gharabekian Passes Away

Maestro Aram Gharabekian

LOS ANGELES–Renowned conductor and former director of the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia, Aram Gharbekian, passed away Friday. He was 58.

Born in 1955, Gharabekian graduated from the New England Conservatory in Boston with a Master’s degree in Composition, and continued his postgraduate studies in Musical Phenomenology at Mainz University, Germany. He studied conducting with Franco Ferrara in Italy, and in 1979 became one of the few conducting pupils of the legendary Sergiu Celibidache in Germany. He was also granted a fellowship to study composition and conducting under Jacob Druckman and Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts.

From 1997 until 2010 Gharabekian served as Music Director of the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia, leading this critically acclaimed ensemble on tours to Greece, the United Arab Emirates, Cyprus, Switzerland, England, Russia, Lebanon, Georgia, Germany, France, Canada and the U.S., where in 2001 they made their Lincoln Center debut as part of their second North American tour.

In 1983 Gharabekian founded the SInfonova Chamber Orchestra in Boston and served as its principal conductor until 1991.

Gharabekian launched his own international music festival, Open Music Fest, in 2009. Held in Yerevan, Armenia, and featuring a diversity of genres, Open Music fest was hailed as a unique platform for artistic collaboration and extraordinary performances of newly commissioned works.

More recently, Gharabekian was the conductor and artistic director of the Open Music Society Foundation, a multifaceted arts organization dedicated to fostering musical excellence, was established in Los Angeles this month.

In 2012, Gharabekian and his Open Music Orchestra received enthusiastic praise for their performance at the Space Shuttle Endeavor arrival ceremony at Los Angeles International Airport.

Gharabekian is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including a special proclamation by the United States Congress, Armenia’s Presidential Medal of Honor, the Lucien Wulsin Award, the ASCAP Award, a special diploma by the ECO-ETNO-FOLK Film Festival (Bucharest, Romania) for the DVD of an open-air concert recorded at the ancient Garni temple in Armenia, and the Harvard Musical Association’s Best Performance Award.

Gharabekian has also earned accolades for guest-conducting several orchestras, including Sinfonietta München, the Zagreb Philharmonic, Ukrainian National Symphony Orchestra, Ukrainian Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra, Lvov Philharmonic, Fresno Philharmonic, Shreveport Symphony Orchestra, Zhejiang Symphony Orchestra, and Armenian Philharmonic.

Gharabekian is survived by his mother, sister, uncles, cousins, niece and nephew, as well as his friends and the legion of loyal fans worldwide.

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  1. sam said:

    r.i.p. aram asdvats hokit lousavore you were a wonderful person and i can say.a brave armenian who gave a lot to his armenians will miss you.

  2. Van Aroian said:

    Aram’s impressive Bio speaks for itself. He was an inspiration in many ways especially professionally and personally. Those of us fortunate enough to attend his SinfoNova concerts will carry their memory with us till our end. They were magnificent in their programming and renditions. I recall a critic who reviewed 2 concerts one evening, one at Boston Symphony Hall and the second, about 100 yards distant at Jordan Hall where Aram’s SinfoNova performed. The critic basically said ” if you wanted to hear music that night, you should have been at Jordan Hall”. His person was special in many ways, if you knew him, you were impressed with his keen mind and depth of thinking imbedded with an integrity that was obvious. His love of Armenia can be heard in a touching remark.” Van, imagine the National Chamber Orchestra ,in these tough times with the financial help of an Armenian benefactor in London, keeping about 30 families fed, clothed and sheltered.” I believe he said the benefactor was Mr. Manoukian but the important point was they were keeping some 30 Armenians employed. May Aram’s family be buoyed by his many fruitful successes to soften his much too premature passing. We have all lost a rare talent who strove to raise us with pride in our Armenian and universal musical heritage.

  3. Nora Armani said:

    Unbelievable and very sad indeed. Huge loss. Sincere condolences to the family, dear ones and friends as well as fans all over the world. RIP Aram. Asdvadz Hokin Loussavore.

  4. Russell Dawkins said:

    I had the privilege of working with Aram in 1994, 1998, 2004 and 2006as the recording engineer for the CDs and DVDs of the Ukrainian Radio Television Orchestra and the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia from those years. These occasions were the highlights of my professional life. Aram was inspired and inspiring to work with. His vision for the NCOA was incredibly ambitious and he brought it to life against massive odds which would have floored most of us. He was a delight to be with.
    I will miss him greatly and forever – he was one of those incendiary people encountered perhaps once in a lifetime.
    Rest in peace, dear Aram.

  5. Rouben Galichian said:

    I knew Aram since the late 1970s, when he was still planning a career. His main thoughts were always concerning the music of Armenia and its advancement through proper performances and good compositions.
    Through ups and down of the political upheavals during the bleak days of the early 1990s he paid a number of visits to Armenia and later was invited to conduct the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia in Yerevan, which he undertook with great plans and visions for its future.
    He was one of the few artists that with the NCO travelled throughout Armenian towns and villages, giving their population the opportunity to hear his excellent performances.
    He planned and executed the “Open Music Fest” in Kino Moskva open air theatre in Yerevan, with great success and acclaim, which would sadly be missed.
    He widened the horizons of the orchestra by taking them on internationals tours of performances in various continents, where their energy charged performances were greatly appreciated.
    Aram was a flamboyant conductor on stage, but during the rehearsals he was quite another person. Whenever I had the chance, I would attend his rehearsals. During these he would try to get the best possible performance out of his musicians by discussing with the players minute details of the music to be performed and the messages that the composer aimed to transmit through his/her music. He was compassionate and at the same time very demanding, while also being gentle and caring. He was meticulous towards all kinds of detail and could not tolerate mediocrity. Striving to keep his musicians at the highest level of professionalism he urged them to improve themselves and threatened to replace those who treated their playing purely as work.
    They were those who saw him as incorruptible and not part of the establishment and were instrumental in estranging him from his beloved orchestra. The very same persons would now take up the podium and speak praise in his honour, pretending to mourn his loss.
    Through our memories he will be with us, his friends, his family and the music lovers at all times. It is us that would really feel this loss most deeply.
    Over and above all he would be remembered with his beautiful music making.
    He lived for music and with music.
    Rouben Galichian

  6. David A. Burack said:

    This is a shocking and tremendous loss. Aram was the greatest and most innovative conductor I even heard and saw The National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia (NCOA) under his musical directorship was extremely disciplined and performed wonders. Aram should have had (much more) global recognition. That his life should be tragically shortened, and that his tenure with NCOA, an instrument that he tuned to perfection, had to terminate in full bloom, is a statement about the transitory nature of even great lives and artists, and the inadequate thanks that some of them receive for their contributions. Thank God that some CDs and videos–see, e.g., the concert at Garni–survive to give future generations at least a taste of his beautiful renditions, and to set a standard for other conductors.