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Knoxville Symphony opens 81st season with Music Director Aram Demirjian conducting music of Russian passion

August 24, 2016
Aram Demirjian KSO Music Director

Aram Demirjian, KSO Music Director

On September 15 and 16, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra will kick off its 81st season and the Moxley Carmichael Masterworks Series with Russian Passion: Rachmaninoff & Tchaikovsky. KSO Music Director Aram Demirjian conducts the Orchestra, joined by pianist Orion Weiss for a spectacular season opener. The concert will take place on Thursday, September 15 and Friday, September 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the Tennessee Theatre. These performances are sponsored by Twin City Dealerships.

Music Director Aram Demirjian will conduct five of the eight Moxley Carmichael Masterworks Series performances on the Tennessee Theatre stage this season. Musical selections for the opening concerts include Sergei Rachmaninoff’s monumental Piano Concerto No. 3 featuring Orion Weiss. The performance begins with the traditional tune, “Star-Spangled Banner,” and the second half of the program includes Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s emotional, soul-stirring Symphony No. 5.

Patrons can attend pre-concert chats at 6:30 p.m. in the concert hall before each performance. Guest performers will offer their personal perspective and audience members will have a chance for Q&A with the artists. There will be a very special Opening Night champagne toast in the Tennessee Theatre lobby at 7 p.m. All patrons are invited to enjoy complimentary champagne and toast to the next KSO season.

Orion Weiss

Orion Weiss, guest pianist

“Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto is the Mount Everest of the piano repertory,” said KSO Music Director Aram Demirjian. “Seamlessly balancing fiery grandeur with tender lyricism, it contains no fewer than 15,000 notes just for the pianist alone and is among the most technically and musically challenging works every composed–but also among the most rewarding to perform and to hear. Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, like so many great narratives, is a transformation journey that seems to run the gamut of human emotions, with a singular melody that the audience will exit humming to themselves. With its soaring melodies, pulse-pounding rhythms, and lush harmonies, Russian music is the epitome of pure, unbridled emotion. It stirs the deepest parts of our souls and expresses our inner humanity in ways that words cannot.”

Aram Demirjian was appointed the KSO’s 8th Music Director effective June 1, 2016, after a year-long music director search. He was the guest conductor for a pair of Masterworks performances in January 2015 at the Tennessee Theatre, and he conducted the 32nd Annual Free Pilot Flying J Independence Day Concert on July Fourth, which was his first appearance as KSO music director. Orion Weiss returns to Knoxville to perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 after a 2012 performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, and a 2004 performance of Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto, both under the baton of Lucas Richman.

Talented American pianist Orion Weiss has performed with the major American orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and New York Philharmonic. Weiss’ impressive list of awards includes the Gilmore Young Artist Award, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, the Gina Bachauer Scholarship at the Juilliard School and the Mieczyslaw Munz Scholarship. A native of Lyndhurst, Ohio, Weiss attended the Cleveland Institute of Music. In 2004, he graduated from the Juilliard School, where he studied with Emanuel Ax.

Tickets may be purchased by calling 865-291-3310 or visiting our website. Single tickets range from $15 to $85. Groups of 10 or more can purchase tickets at a discounted rate by calling 865-521-2337.

About Aram Demirjian:

Aram Demirjian was appointed the eighth music director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra in June 2016 and began his tenure by conducting the KSO 32nd Annual Free Pilot Flying J Independence Day Concert on July 4, 2016 with patriotic music, where he was welcomed by East Tennessee audiences with fervor. Originally from Boston, Aram joins the KSO family after a four-year tenure as Associate Conductor of the Kansas City Symphony.

In four years at the Kansas City Symphony (KCS), Demirjian conducted over 200 performances including subscription concerts and critically praised annual performances of Handel’s Messiah. Demirjian is involved in community outreach initiatives with the goal of ensuring that everyone, regardless of age, background, or circumstance, has access to great symphonic music. With the KCS, he programmed, scripted, and conducted education concerts for nearly 45,000 elementary school students annually.

Demirjian’s lively 2016-17 season includes two return engagements performing with the Louisiana Philharmonic, debuts with the Corpus Christi Symphony, Fresno Philharmonic, and Illinois Symphony, and his European debut on the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra’s Dominicales series. Recent guest conducting highlights include debuts with the Minnesota Orchestra, and Memphis and Omaha symphonies. Demirjian is a frequent cover conductor with the Boston Symphony, where he assisted Music Director Andris Nelsons, Christoph von Dohnányi, and Manfred Honeck.

Aram Demirjian was one of only two conductors in the inaugural class of the distinguished Orchestral Conducting program at New England Conservatory, where he earned his Master of Music. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, in music and government from Harvard University, where his conducting journey began with a two-year appointment as music director of the Harvard Bach Society Orchestra. His primary teachers and mentors include Hugh Wolff, Robert Spano, Larry Rachleff, and Michael Stern.

About the KSO

Established in 1935, and now under the leadership of Music Director Aram Demirjian, the KSO has contributed to the cultural life in East Tennessee continuously for 80 years, providing excellence in musical and educational programs. The Orchestra consists of 80 professional musicians and performs 250 programs throughout the region each season, reaching audiences of more than 200,000 people. The KSO performs in traditional venues such as the Tennessee Theatre, Bijou Theatre and the Civic Auditorium as well as non-traditional places like hospitals, schools, city parks and churches. For more information regarding the KSO, please visit or call 865-291-3310.