Get to Know our Music Director

Tigran Arakelyan smiling at the camera.

ORS’ new Music Director for the 2021-2022 season, Tigran Arakelyan, takes the mic to share some of his passions, his love of connecting with students such as the ones we serve, and the interesting reason he started making music in the first place. Read on to learn more about Tigran before he takes the stage at the Fall Trio Festival, coming up soon.

Q: Your talents brought you to work with many other arts organizations, including multiple symphony orchestras. What drew you to ORS?

There are a number of reasons. I am passionate about music education and have worked with many youth orchestras and youth focused organizations. Outside of the educational component, youth connect and inspire our communities. Every organization large or small should have a focus on educating and inspiring our young musicians. Their presence, curiosity, passion, and energy are much needed for the growth of this field, without them it would be impossible. The potential for growth for ORS is another aspect that excited me. The unique vision gives ORS an opportunity to collaborate and work with any organization in the region. Collaboration is key in making our field more inclusive and diverse. This is truly a unique organization in the region, around the country and the world. I am excited to be a part of it.

Q: And we’re excited for you to join us in our mission. I’m sure friends of ORS can expect lots of collaboration with ORS and other groups, and growth into new ways that ORS can serve our community. As I mentioned earlier, you serve with many other organizations. Tell me a little bit about them.

As I said, I am passionate about working with young musicians, I am the Music Director of Federal Way Youth Symphony and the Bainbridge Island Youth Orchestras. During my time, both youth organizations grew to their highest enrollment, commissioned pieces, created a festival and added multiple orchestras/ensembles. We have also travelled to South Korea on three occasions, done many outreach projects and performances. I am also working as the Music Director of Northwest Mahler Festival and the Port Townsend Symphony.

Q: Very impressive! You shared your belief on the importance of educating and inspiring. At ORS, those personal relationships between conductor and student are truly connections to treasure. What is one of your favorite moments connecting with a student?

There are many special moments since I have worked with hundreds of young musicians. I always think about the ones who were on the brink of quitting music but I was able to encourage them to keep going. The goal is not to make everyone a professional musician, far from it. My goal is for young musicians to understand the benefits of playing music. Of course, you can read the numerous studies done on the benefits of music (Curious? Click here for a Harvard Health article on the topic) but I will list some that have personally impacted my life and others I know. Music is a language, learning to read, speak, write are already important enough reasons to play music. Just as with any language, if you don’t use it, you start forgetting.

Playing in an ensemble/orchestra teaches you how to communicate, to know when you are important and when you need to be listening to others. Music teaches teamwork, punctuality, consistency of practice, facing fears, sharing the passion with others and the list goes on. These are all skills you will subconsciously apply to any career you embark on. It is no surprise that many professionals in every field have had some music education.

Music is also a good way to connect with people. There are community orchestras, chamber music events and organizations that you can join even as an amateur. I have this conversation with young musicians who want to quit and have a good track record of keeping them in music. My goal is to help them understand the benefits of a life with music and not about being a professional musician.

Q: You work a lot with youth, and maintaining their love for music. When you were growing up, did you always have a love for music? How did your passion grow to eventually become Music Director for organizations like ours?

I started music at nine years old in Yerevan, Armenia. My parents took me to flute lessons after a recommendation from a homeopathic doctor. I had a chronic breathing condition and my parents tried everything that was recommended. Although many treatments were helpful, my parents like to say that music healed me. The doctor recommended that I play a wind instrument and my parents chose the flute for me. After years of playing, I realized my passion for organizing events and collaborating with other musicians. All of this led me to form an orchestra and start my conducting journey.

Q: What a magical story – and certainly a reason to believe in the benefits of music. Besides the arts, though, what is one of your hobbies or interests that you enjoy?

Outside of music my priority is spending time with my family. I have a two year old boy and another one who was born very recently. Having a very busy schedule takes me away from them so I try to give as much time to my family as possible. In recent years, I have been kayaking and running.

Q: Congratulations on the new baby, and thank you for your answers today! One last question before we sign off: What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?

I started first grade in Belarus (Russian school) after which my family moved back to Armenia where I attended 2nd through 4th grade (Russian school). In 5th grade my school no longer offered classes in Russian so I had to switch to an Armenian school. Lastly, my family moved to the US in the summer before I started 6th grade. Lots of languages to read, write and speak within a relatively short time. Thinking back, it seems like a lot but for some reason I was able to adapt quickly to the changing countries, languages and situations.

Learn more about ORS and our Music Director Tigran Arakelyan at our about page, or on his personal website.

While you’re reading about ORS, why not add one of our upcoming concerts to your calendar? Find the full schedule of concerts on Facebook or here on our website.