Haig Hovsepian performing at "From the Top" radio program

Haig Hovsepian Is Hitting All the Right Notes


BELMONT, Mass. — Haig Hovsepian of Belmont is a son and grandson of musicians and the cousin of the most famous violinists performing today. Still, he said in a recent interview that his career choice as a violinist is an accident.

“My family said there are enough musicians in the world. It is a tough life,” he recalled, laughing.

Haig and his mother, Ani, at the State House six years ago.

The young violin virtuoso is the son of Ani Hovsepian, a pianist who often accompanies him, and the grandson of Anahit Tsitsikyan, the first female professional violinist in Armenia, and the cousin of Sergey Khachatryan, an internationally acclaimed violinist who has the distinction of being the youngest winner of the  International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition in 2000 as well as the Queen Elizabeth Music Competition in 2005.

His father, Jirair Hovsepian, concurred, adding, “We never wanted it. It is the hardest field to go into.”

To which his son added, “It is how I want to make my living. I can’t see my life without music.”

Hovsepian, a rising sophomore at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM), was 4 years old when his mother’s friend, a violin teacher, as a lark, asked him to test out a small violin and play a few notes. Little Haig took to it and ended up studying the violin.

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“They never forced it on me or anything,” he said. He joked, of course, that while “no one likes practicing,” he has continued studying intensively because he has wanted to.

Haig Hovspeian

Hovsepian will perform the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor at Symphony Hall on June 9, making his debut with the Boston Pops at the Armenian Night at Pops.

The same day, at 3 p.m., he will perform at Symphony Hall for winning the Boston Symphony Concerto Competition.

One moment that fed his soul was seeing his cousin, Khachatryan, perform at Symphony Hall in Boston in 2007. He thought, “It is going to be me one day.”

Therefore, the performances will be “definitely a dream come true,” he said.

Hovsepian has had a long list of private teachers, and thus his family did not want him to take up the violin in school. Therefore, he chose a different one, the saxophone.

From 2012 to 2017, he studied at the New England Conservatory Preparatory Division. Aside from a list of private teachers, he has also participated in master classes with NEC President Tony Woodcock, Atlanta Symphony Concertmaster David Coucheron, his cousin Sergey Khachatryan and Amayak Dourgarian.

For all his efforts, he has won several competitions, including honorable mention at the BSO Concerto Competition, the Max Reger Ambassador Award and the NEC Concerto Competition. He has also won town wide competitions in Concord, Brockton, Waltham and Belmont, as well as a Classical International Competition in Canada.

Hovspeian also appeared on the NPR radio music program “From the Top,” last year. He performed Kaddish by Maurice Ravel and It Ain’t Necessarily So by George Gershwin.

While he still contends with pre-performance nerves, he has come to a realization. “I came to understand that I play for myself and I want to bring joy to the audience,” he said. “You tell a story. After all those years, the nerves don’t go away. It shows you care and adds energy and a spark.”

Hovsepian is adjusting to life in college more than 600 miles away from home, finding the change easier than expected.

“The community is so nice there. It is one big friend group,” Hovsepian said of the CIM.

“It is nice to practice all day,” he said.

Hovsepian added that as far as he knows, he is the only Armenian currently studying at the CIM.

Aside from the lovely group of folks there, one other perk for CIM students is that they get free tickets to all the concerts of the Cleveland Orchestra, routinely ranked as one of the top orchestras in the world.

Hovsepian said he could not possibly choose a favorite composer, as each had their own genius. He noted, however that the Khachaturian Violin Concerto feels different. “It [marks a] milestone for me and it’s in my blood,” he said.

Hovsepian, continuing in the footsteps of his grandmother, said he is still inspired by her artistry and listens to her records.

“It touches me very closely,” he said. “I get inspiration from them.”

She was one of the foremost violinists in Armenia and the first person there to perform Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto.

The saxophone came in handy during a classical concert abroad when he was a high school senior. The orchestra was visiting Iceland and he was playing the violin when the orchestra was performing Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. By coincidence, there is a saxophone solo in the music and he just switched from one to the other.

But it is not only classical music that fills his days. Hovsepian grew up in Belmont, where the school system emphasizes musical education.

Jazz and classical music fulfill different aspects of his soul, Hovsepian said. “Classical music is more conservative, but jazz is totally different, with improvising and solos. It’s like talking about your day. It’s a nice change of pace.”

While CIM does not have a jazz program, there are many student jazz groups. He has also started a jazz combo with friends here and performed at local jazz clubs.

To hear his performance on NPR, visit https://www.fromthetop.org/musician/haig-hovsepian/ to buy tickets for the Pops on June 9, visit www.bso.org.

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