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.