It is so inspiring that you are the music director of the LA Chamber Music Company. Can you tell us about your journey with them?
Thank you! I was very honored to be asked by the co-founders, clarinetist Ryan Glass and harpist Jillian Lopez, to be the music director of this new company they were putting together, and I whole-heartedly agreed. What appealed to me the most was that they wanted to expand on the traditional concert experience by highlighting new music and younger/living composers to provide audiences with a rich musical experience. The company also wants to eventually create sustainable career opportunities for the many talented musicians in Los Angeles. So far, we have put on a couple of very successful concerts and plan to perform many more!
What is your thought process when choosing the repertoires for the concerts?
I always like to have a variety of composers, styles, and instrumentations when planning for concerts because one of the things I aim for is to educate and enrich our audience with all these contrasting styles of music. For example, on our latest concert, our repertoire included White Landscapes by Takashi Yoshimatsu (strings with solo harp, flute, and cello), Sextuor mixte by Laurent Lefrancois (for flute, clarinet, piano, violin, viola, and cello), and Serenade No. 2 in A by Johannes Brahms (chamber orchestra) – pieces from a Japanese, a French, and a German composer. Also, the styles were very different – an ethereal piece depicting beautiful landscapes, a modern piece with rapidly changing tempos and meters, and a Romantic era serenade. With these types of performances, we are always able to engage and intrigue our audiences, gaining a positive response.
You and your string ensemble group, Harmony Chamber Orchestra, held a benefit concert and helped Syrian and Iraqi Armenian refugees back in 2017. How did you musically and financially prepare for such an impactful event?
I had assistance from the head of the AEUNA (Armenian Evangelical Union of North America), Rev. Berdj Djambazian. He is the one who told me that they have this concert in mind that they wanted me to direct it, in order to raise money for the refugees. We did a lot of advertising and it was very nice and heartwarming to see that so much of the community donated for this cause. It was Rev. Djambazian, who selflessly used his budget, so we can gather musicians and put together the concert. Musically, it was majorly Armenian-themed, along with some classics and sharagan (meaning Armenian mass or liturgy), as we wanted to include prayers for the refugees trying to survive and find a better life. It was definitely one of the most meaningful experiences of my career so far.
You work a lot with female composers. In fact, you were the assistant conductor for The Future Is Female concert in 2018. What are the advantages of working with female composers?
That was an exhilarating experience! It was the first time I had seen so many women come together and work as a team to put together a tremendous, successful concert like that. It was remarkable watching Tori Letzler at work; and even though I did not work directly with her, I still learned an immense amount from her. It is widely known that the field of media composition in the music industry is male-dominated; as such, women undergo a different set of challenges while on their journey towards achieving their career goals and ambitions. Having the opportunity to work with fellow women composers in this field has provided me with the guidance, mentorship, and advice that a young professional such as myself needs to gain the confidence to dream big and foster networking relationships in the field.
You not only orchestrated & conducted for film and video game soundtracks, but also for books! Could you tell us about your work on Green Rider and how it differed from your other projects?
Green Rider was the first big orchestral album I had the opportunity to work on. The composer, Kristina Bishoff, had started a Kickstarter for this project; the huge fan base of the book raised above $90,000 so we were able to record her music with almost an entire live orchestra, including strings, winds, brass, and choir! I orchestrated a couple of the pieces on the album, and traveled to Salt Lake City to conduct the woodwind and choir sessions. I was very excited to work on this unique project, as Kristina wrote music that follows the journey of the main character of a novel. It is similar to composing for a film, but instead of being inspired from scenes of a movie, she was inspired from the chapters of a book, completely using her imagination to immerse the readers into the world of Sacoridia (the kingdom where the novel takes place). She had melodies representing the main characters, music for important scenes, and even a sinister theme of the evil character.
Any advice for our members who want to get more into conducting?
My advice to the wonderful members of this group would be to watch videos of other conductors to learn from them. Practice conducting in front of a mirror. While practicing, you should record yourself; this way, you can see much more of what you are doing and fix things if you need to. Also, attend as many rehearsals and concerts as possible. Rehearsals especially! Rather than just watching concerts, seeing how a conductor gets an orchestra ready for a performance gives so much more insight into how an orchestra works together.
Interview by Esin Aydingoz
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