A Day of Armenian Music at UCLA

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WESTWOOD, Calif. — The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Armenian Music Program and its Founding Director Professor Movses Pogossian showcase the treasures of Armenian classical, contemporary, and folk music with a concert featuring World Premieres by Kinan Azmeh and Bryn Kirsch, UCLA VEM Ensemble, Apple Hill String Quartet, and UCLA Armenian Music Ensemble.

Following the concert, two simultaneously held breakout sessions will be offered, starting at 12:45 PM. One of them will feature Dr. Melissa Bilal of UCLA Ethnomusicology lecturing on the legacy of song collector, music scholar, and conductor Mihran Toumajan. The second one will be a workshop run by Armen Adamian of the Armenian Music Ensemble. During this song/dance workshop, Adamian and Kinan Azmeh will be teaching the song “Es KisherHampartsum E (Hele Hele)”. All ages are welcome and a background in music is not required.

The event will conclude with a joint session featuring musical improvisations by Armen Adamian (duduk) and Kinan Azmeh (clarinet), internationally renowned performer/composer and Armenian Music Program’s Guest Artist in Residence. The Armenian Music Program at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music provides an in-depth exploration of Armenia’s rich musical heritage. Established in 2013, the Program has presented dozens of outreach performances as well as high-profile public concerts and critically acclaimed recordings⁠, provided over 30 student scholarships, commissioned several new works, and built a devoted community of supporters and fans. The Program engages communities of musicians, scholars, and audience members across the UCLA campus, Los Angeles, nationally, and internationally.

Free registration is required to attend the complete 90-minute event. Alternately, the 45-minute-long opening concert will be streamed live on UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music’s YouTube channel.

About the key participants:

Kinan Azmeh

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Hailed as “intensely soulful” and a “virtuoso” by The New York Times and “spellbinding” by the New Yorker, Winner of OpusKlassik award in 2019 clarinetist and composer Kinan Azmeh has gained international recognition for what the CBC has called his “incredibly rich sound” and his distinctive compositional voice across diverse musical genres. Originally from Damascus, Syria, Kinan Azmeh brings his music to all corners of the world as a soloist, composer, and improviser.

Kinan’s compositions include several works for solo, chamber, and orchestral music, as well as music for film, live illustration, and electronics. An advocate for new music, several concertos were dedicated to him by composers such as Kareem Roustom, Dia Succari, Dinuk Wijeratne, Zaid Jabri, Saad Haddad, and Guss Janssen, in addition to a large number of chamber music works.

Kinan’s upcoming projects include solo appearances with several orchestras, a number of tours with his New York “Arabic-jazz” quartet the Kinan Azmeh CityBand, and with his ensemble Hewar and a new project with the NDR big band. His latest album “Uneven Sky” with Berlin’s Deutsches Symphony Orchestra has recently won the Opus Klassik Award. Kinan serves as artistic director of the Damascus Festival Chamber Players, a pan-Arab ensemble dedicated to contemporary music from the Arab world. He has also been playing with the Silkroad Ensemble since 2012, whose 2017 Grammy Award-winning album “Sing Me Home” features Kinan as a clarinetist and composer. Kinan Azmeh is a graduate of New York’s Juilliard School as a student of Charles Neidich and of both the Damascus High Institute of Music where he studied with Shukry Sahwki, Nicolay Viovanof and Anatoly Moratof, and Damascus University’s School of Electrical Engineering. Kinan earned his doctorate degree in music from the City University of New York in 2013.

Melissa Bilal

Melissa Bilal is a Distinguished Research Fellow at UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies and a Lecturer in the Department of Ethnomusicology. Dr. Bilal comes from the American University of Armenia, where she is an Assistant Professor in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Previously, she held the positions of Visiting Professor of Armenian Studies in NELC at the University of Chicago, Visiting Scholar of History at MIT, Visiting Faculty of Armenian Studies in MESAAS at Columbia University, Visiting Lecturer of History at Boğaziçi University, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Orient-Institut Istanbul, and Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in Music at Columbia University.

Apple Hill String Quartet

Called “dashing and extraordinary” by The Strad Magazine, the Apple Hill String Quartet has earned praise around the world for its concerts presenting interpretive mastery of traditional repertoire, neglected masterpieces, and music from around the world, as well as world premieres and commissioned pieces. As resident musicians and Co-Artistic Directors at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music, winner of the 2016 CMAcclaim award from Chamber Music America, the Quartet serves as the Music Directors and core faculty for Apple Hill’s Summer Chamber Music Workshop attended by 300 students of diverse ages, levels, and backgrounds.

During the regular concert season, in conjunction with Apple Hill’s Playing for Peace program, the Quartet performs concerts and conducts residencies locally in New Hampshire, nationally in major U.S. cities, and internationally around the globe in venues as diverse as the Ketermaya refugee camp outside of Beirut, Boston Conservatory at Berklee, the Conservatorio National de Musica in Lima, the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and UCLA. The Quartet has collaborated with members of the Brentano String Quartet, Silk Road Ensemble, Dorian Wind Quintet, Hirsch-Pinkas Piano Duo, New York Philharmonic, and Community MusicWorks in Providence, RI. Most recent studio recordings include the premiere of Dana Lyn’s Suite for Fiddler and String Quartet, a revival of Ahmed Adnan Saygun’s String Quartet No. 1, and transcriptions of Purcell Fantasias. Members of the Quartet have received degrees from Oberlin Conservatory, the Juilliard School, Peabody Conservatory, New England Conservatory of Music, Manhattan School of Music, SUNY Stonybrook, and a Fulbright Award to London, England.

UCLA VEM Ensemble

The VEM Ensemble is the cornerstone of the newly created Armenian Music Program at UCLA, which⁠—thanks to generous donor support, as well as artistic guidance of the Lark Musical Society⁠—endeavors to raise awareness and celebrate the richness and diversity of Armenian musical tradition.

In residence at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and under the artistic leadership of Founder/Director Movses Pogossian, the Ensemble consists of the VEM String Quartet and mezzo-soprano Danielle Segen. The VEM Ensemble has worked with such musicians as David Starobin, Nickolas Kitchen, Kim Kashkashian, Seth Knopp, and Tigran Mansurian. The Ensemble has performed at various venues in Los Angeles including Zipper Hall, Bing Theater, Schoenberg Hall, the Hammer Museum, as well as in New Mexico, Colorado, and the Incontri in Terra di Siena Festival in Italy. In his review of their performance in Italy, critic Laurence Vittes writes, “The evening’s most memorable music was made by the VEM Quartet…who laid out Eduard Mirzoyan’s String Quartet with a feline, subtle grace that touched hearts with its gentle melodic content and long-lined eloquence.”

The VEM Ensemble has recently performed with great acclaim in Yerevan, Armenia, and is featured in the newly released CD of Armenian Music by the Naxos-distributed label, New Focus Recordings.

Armen Adamian

Armen Adamian is a Ph.D. student in Ethnomusicology at UCLA. His research investigates the politics of music making among Armenians and the involvement of musical and choreographic discourses in the production of geopolitical and national narratives. Alongside his academic studies, Armen practices duduk and leads an Armenian folk ensemble in Los Angeles. He received his MA in Ethnomusicology from UCLA, a BA in Psychology and a BA in Music Composition from Humboldt State University.

Movses Pogossian

Movses Pogossian made his American debut with the Boston Pops in 1990, about which the  Boston Globe wrote: “There is freedom in his playing, but also taste and discipline. It was a fiery, centered, and highly musical performance…” Prizewinner of several competitions, including the 1986 Tchaikovsky International Competition, he extensively performed as soloist and recitalist worldwide. As chamber musician, Pogossian has collaborated with such artists as Kim Kashkashian, Alexei Lubimov, Jeremy Denk, Rohan de Saram, and with members of the Tokyo, Kronos, and Brentano string quartets. He is Artistic Director of the acclaimed Dilijan Chamber Music Series, currently in its 15th season (www.dilijan.larkmusicalsociety.org). Champion of new music, Pogossian has premiered over 70 works, and worked closely with composers such as Kurtág, Harbison, Saariaho, Mansurian, and Gabriela Lena Frank. Pogossian’s discography includes the Complete Sonatas and Partitas by J. S. Bach, solo violin CDs “Inspired by Bach”, “Blooming Sounds”, and “In Nomine”, and recently released “Con Anima” album of Tigran Mansurian’s music on ECM label. In his review of Kurtág’s “Kafka Fragments” (with soprano Tony Arnold) Paul Griffiths writes: “…remarkable is Pogossian’s contribution, which is always beautiful, across a great range of colors and gestures, and always seems on the edge of speaking—or beyond.” Movses Pogossian is Professor of Violin at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and also Founding Director of the UCLA Armenian Music Program (https://schoolofmusic.ucla.edu/resources/armenian-music-program/). As Head of the Los Angeles Chapter, he actively participates in the Music for Food project (https://musicforfood.net/) which raises awareness of the hunger problem and gives the opportunity to experience the powerful role music can play as a catalyst for change.

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