Slain UMKC vocalist is honored at commencement

When the 2013 graduating class of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance walked with pomp and circumstance Saturday morning, one student was missing.

Aaron Markarian was supposed to be there at Helzberg Hall in the Kauffman Performing Arts Center. With a praised baritone voice, he was on track to graduate with a bachelor’s of music in vocal performance.

Instead, the commencement ceremony included the announcement of an endowed scholarship in his name funded by the UMKC Alumni Association, the conservatory and other supporters of the school. Markarian’s mother accepted his diploma.

On March 23, less than two months shy of his graduation day, Markarian was killed during a robbery attempt at his off-campus home. Along with friends and his roommates, he had just celebrated with a post-production party after playing Demetrius in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

At the conservatory, students and faculty described Markarian as a “blossoming talent.”

“Aaron Markarian brought people together,” Peter Witte, dean of the conservatory, said in a statement. “Joyful, curious, and creative, Aaron is the kind of person and musician UMKC seeks to serve. We hope to serve even more students like Aaron through this scholarship.”

The conservatory also honored Shirley Bush Helzberg with an honorary doctorate for her longtime support of the arts in the city and at the university.