Interlochen Music Faculty Ara Sarkissian assumes new roles

Interlochen Center for the Arts is happy to announce the return of the Interlochen Arts Academy String Orchestra. Interlochen Instructor of Violin and current Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra Conductor Ara Sarkissian will begin conducting the ensemble at the start of the 2018-19 academic year. The String Orchestra has been inactive since the retirement of its former conductor and viola instructor, David Holland, in 2013.

Holland formed the String Orchestra in 1973 and directed the group for four decades. Sarkissian joined the faculty at Interlochen as Instructor of Violin in the fall of 2014. In the spring of the following year, Sarkissian became the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra Conductor after the departure of Carolyn Watson.

“I am very pleased that the Music Department is reinstating the String Orchestra as an official ensemble. I feel so fortunate to have Ara here. He is a fine musician of great depth and accomplishment.” said Holland.

In addition to his new role as String Orchestra Conductor, Sarkissian will also spearhead the newly-formed Interlochen Arts Academy Contemporary Music Ensemble. Sarkissian will also continue his role as Instructor of Violin. “Ara is a natural fit for this group,” said Interlochen Director of Music Dr. Kedrik Merwin. “Both his work at Interlochen and abroad demonstrates the skill and passion needed for the String Orchestra and Contemporary Music Ensemble.”

“Having a String Orchestra is a special honor for the school, and it’s a special honor for me in particular,” said Sarkissian. “Leading the Contemporary Music Ensemble is just the icing on the cake for a really special opportunity afforded to me, and provided for our students.”

Holland added that, “[Sakissian’s] work is going to be a very valuable part of our curriculum. It’s only going to create a better quality of life musically, artistically and educationally here at Interlochen,” said Holland.

Sarkissian, a graduate of the New England Conservatory, has collaborated with the likes of Pierre Boulez, Peter Eötvös, Helmut Lachenmann, Wolfgang Rihm, Steve Reich, Frederic Rzewski and George Benjamin. A highlight of his career was performing George Benjamin’s "Palimpsests I and II" under the direction of Pierre Boulez at the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland.

This will not be Sarkissian’s first foray into working with interlochen students on new music. During the 2015-16 Interlochen Arts Academy year, Sarkissian prepped the Orchestra for their 2016 NY Phil Biennial performance; including works by contemporary composers Hannah Lash, Jennifer Higdon, Nico Muhly and Ashley Fure (IAA 98-00). Of the performance, James. R. Oestreich said in The New York Times that, “[The] composers...put the young players through their paces, and the Interlochen students responded brilliantly…”

“The Contemporary Music Ensemble will give me a chance to slow down the method a little bit, and will afford me the opportunity to share with students a historical context on the pieces they’re performing,” said Sarkissian.

With these new responsibilities, a national search is currently underway for Sarkissian’s successor, who will act as the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra Conductor. Since 1962, the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra has served as one of the premiere ensembles of the institution.

“It is my belief that these announcements reaffirm our commitment to orchestral study at Interlochen,” said Interlochen Center for the Arts President Trey Devey, “I am proud of the work of our faculty, and I know that these changes will only increase our ability to serve our students and the classical music community at large for decades to come.”