Aram Demirjian has a busy couple of weeks ahead of him, but that’s not unusual for the associate conductor of the Kansas City Symphony.
Demirjian is one of the hardest-working men in show business, conducting all of the Kansas City Symphony’s pops concerts, family series concerts, the Symphony in the Flint Hills — and the list goes on.
On Monday he’s conducting the Symphony’s annual Labor Day concert, Pops in the Park, and Friday night it’s Classics Uncorked.
Demirjian started with the Symphony as assistant conductor in the 2012-13 season and was promoted to associate conductor just before the 2013-14 one. He describes his three years with the Kansas City Symphony as “an incomparable experience.”
“From the moment I began with the Kansas City Symphony, I loved being here,” he said. “My favorite aspect of the job is, you get to conduct an amazing orchestra 60-plus times a year. As a conductor and musician, you just can’t ask for anything more than talented colleagues to work with and enthusiastic audiences like we have in Kansas City.”
Demirjian has impeccable credentials, graduating cum laude from Harvard with a bachelor’s degree in music and government. His conducting career began at Harvard, where he was music director of the Harvard Bach Society. He was just finishing up his graduate studies in the conducting program at the New England Conservatory of Music when the Kansas City Symphony called.
“The Symphony contacted me toward the end of 2011, around Thanksgiving, asking me if I would be interested in auditioning for the position of assistant conductor,” he said. “I auditioned in January of 2012 and fell in love with the city and really fell in love with the orchestra. I was just very fortunate that they thought of me.”
Although Demirjian has the loftiest of musical backgrounds, he thoroughly enjoys the pops concerts he conducts. He said he especially liked putting together Monday night’s Pops in the Park program, which will celebrate the end of summer and kick off the Symphony’s 2014-15 season.
“We try to offer something a little bit different every year,” he said, “and this year everything on the program is American music, covering the full range of American music, going all the way back to the late 19th century with a piece called ‘Jubilee’ by George Chadwick, going through the first part of the 20th century with music by Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein, right up to the present with music from ‘Star Wars.’ It’s all just fun music, a great way to just squeeze the last drops out of summer.”
Demirjian also enjoys conducting the Symphony’s very popular Classics Uncorked concerts, which feature the unbeatable combination of music and wine.
“Classics Uncorked is one of the most casual, fun ways that anybody can experience an orchestra concert,” Demirjian said. “It begins at an earlier start time than most concerts. Each concert is about an hour long, and you get a glass of wine or champagne with the cost of your ticket. These concerts are designed to offer a fresh take on the classics. We try to gear them so they are welcoming to anybody, regardless of their level of familiarity with classical music. It’s a great way to spend a little bit of time after work.”
The theme of Friday night’s Classics Uncorked is “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The music of Bohemian heavy-hitters Bedrich Smetana and Antonin Dvorak will feature prominently, as well as a work not normally associated with the classical concert hall.
“Just a couple of years ago, Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was arranged for orchestra and solo viola, and it became a YouTube sensation,” Demirjian said. “The coolest part, in my opinion, is that the solo viola actually plays the voice of Freddy Mercury. Our phenomenal principal violist, Christine Grossman, is going to provide the — quote unquote — vocals. We’ve never done a rock song before on Classics Uncorked, and I think people will see that orchestras can, in fact, also rock.”
In spite of having one of the busiest schedules of any associate conductor in America, Demirjian is also having fun. And for a person with such a deep connection to the revered musical traditions of New England, Demirjian is genuinely impressed and enthusiastic about culture in Kansas City.
“I love Kansas City,” he said. “The first thing that jumped out at me when I visited and has continued to show itself to be true as long as I’ve lived here is just how artistically vibrant the city is. For any artist or musician of any kind, it’s always so much more fulfilling to ply your craft in an environment that truly values what you do, nurtures what you do. Kansas City is just brimming with arts, and unlike a lot of other cities around the country in this day and age, the arts are held up as something truly valuable and essential to the lifeblood of the city. You can’t ask for more than that as a performer.”
Pops in the Park: 7 p.m. Monday at Theatre in the Park in Shawnee Mission Park, 7710 Renner Road, Shawnee. Gates open at 4:30 p.m. The Youth Symphony of Kansas City will perform at 6 p.m. Free. You are invited to bring picnic dinners, blankets and lawn chairs.
Classics Uncorked — Bohemian Rhapsody: 7 p.m. Friday at Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. $25. 816-471-0400 or www.kcsymphony.org.
Dance in the Park
Roanoke Park, that beautiful oasis in the center of midtown Kansas City, will once again be the setting for Dance in the Park, the end-of-summer extravaganza featuring a broad variety of human movement.
The 16th annual Dance in the Park will take place Saturday.
This year the performers include City in Motion Dance Theater and City in Motion Children’s Dance Theater and Apprentice Company, Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company, Storling Dance Theater and the Billie Mahoney Dance Troupe. Styles of dance will include everything from tap, hip hop and tango to American Indian and Greek.
7 p.m. Saturday at Roanoke Park, 3699 E. Roanoke Drive. Free. You are invited to bring blankets and lawn chairs and picnic dinners. No pets allowed. Rain date on Sept. 7 at same time. 816-908-7354 or https://www.facebook.com/danceinthepark.
UMKC Conservatory’s 2014-2015 season
The Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City enriches the cultural life of Kansas City in so many ways. For example, its Conservatory Artist Series and Music Alliance Series offer world-class concerts at affordable prices that will satisfy the soul of any music lover.
The conservatory recently announced its 2014-15 season, and it offers music to please everyone from connoisseurs in search of rare delights to those who just want a rousing evening of music.
You should take special note of the Nov. 7 Crescendo concert. It’s a gala affair featuring the conservatory’s incredibly talented musicians and faculty.
To add to the excitement, the program is secret until the night of the performance. But to give you a taste of last year’s Crescendo, Bobby Watson and Dan Thomas played a jazz duet, opera students performed arias from “Rigoletto,” marimba music and more were featured. Musicians performed all over Helzberg Hall to fully exploit the venue’s sound potential.
Sept. 26: Conservatory Wind Symphony conducted by Steven D. Davis at Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Music by John Adams, Steven Bryant and John Corigliano.
Oct. 10: Philharmonia Quartett Berlin at White Recital Hall, 4949 Cherry St. This is a Music Alliance concert in partnership with the Friends of Chamber Music.
Oct. 30: UMKC Graduate Fellowship Brass Quintet at the Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th St.
Nov. 7: Crescendo at Helzberg Hall. A gala concert featuring the conservatory’s students and faculty.
Jan. 30, 2015: Ariel Quartet with Alon Goldstein at the Folly. This is a Music Alliance concert in partnership with the Friends of Chamber Music.
Feb. 20: Chancellor’s Concerto Competition Winner at the Folly.
March 11: Wind Bands Joint Concert at the Folly.
March 16: UMKC Jazz Night at the Folly.
May 5: Finale Concert at Helzberg Hall.
For tickets, call 816-235-6222 or visit umkc.edu/cto.
Patrick Neas is program director for RadioBach.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.