As prescribed by Paulina Constancia

Cello con affetto 1: Cellist Conductors – Karen & Gevorg Sargsyan (Armenia)

“Cello con affetto” or cello with affection is the title of this week’s special series on DDoA. I bring you some very talented cellists from Armenia to America- with their passions, stories and journeys.

We start off with the Armenian father and son cellist- conductors – Karen and Gevorg Sargsyan.


Maestro Karen Sargsyan is a notable Armenian choirmaster.
From 1972 to 1980 he directed the choir of Yerevan State University and performed in numerous concerts around the Soviet Union States, including the Baltic States, Moscow and St. Peterburg. Simultaneously, he directed the choir of Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin.  In 1989 Mr. Sargsyan created the Male Choir and performed numerous times in West Germany.  In 1993 he was invited by the Armenian Diaspora of Sydney Australia to work with the “Komitas” Choir and the “Sydney Symphonic Orchestra”.

Karen Sargsyan  is the principal choirmaster of the Armenian National Opera Theater. Under his direction the opera choir has performed in Moscow (1995), USA (1999), Spain (1999, 2000), Lebanon (2001) and in many other countries.
In 2006, by the decree of the President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan, Maestro Karen Sargsyan was awarded the title of Honored Artist of Republic of Armenia. via Wikipedia

DDoA: When did you start playing cello?
KS: At the age of eight

DDoA: Who influenced you to study and play cello?
KS: My elder siblings perhaps. My sister was studying piano and my brother picked up the violin, so I said “get me a cello”, so we can play piano trio pieces at home

KS-on cello

Maestro Karen Sargsyan on the cello

DDoA: How often do you practice? Perform?
KS: As a cellist -not much nowadays. As a conductor,  I perform weekly and sometimes twice a week in various venues. Regarding the practising, it’s a never ending process, and the older you get the more you realize how little you know, so I keep practising and learning on a daily basis.

DDoA: Your most unforgettable cello performance so far?
KS: On a warship “Voroshilov” in Sevastopol, Crimea. We were invited to play for the crew and officers and what I still remember was a lack of any hole to stick my cello’s endpin on the deck.

DDoA: When your son was little, did you wish he would play the cello as well?
KS: I wanted both my kids to experience learning music. I didn’t plan to influence their decision in choosing a career though. While my first son pursued a musicians’ career, my younger one chose to learn more about history and oriental studies, eventually becoming a TV host in Armenia.

DDoA: When did you start your profession as conductor? How did this affect your music playing?
KS: In 1974, after I graduated from the college as a cellist, I went on to studying choir conducting at the Pedagogical University of Armenia, later obtaining a Double Master’s degree from the State Music Conservatory as well. As to how  my conducting affected my playing, I can’t say. Perhaps I started seeing music making from various angles, and that indirectly affected my interpretation of musical compositions.


Maestro Karen Sargsyan conducting in Armenia

DDoA: What is the most important lesson/value that you learned in your music training/career that applies to every aspect in life?
KS: Honesty and that learning is a never ending process.

– Honoured Artist of the Republic of Armenia
– Gold Medal awarded by the President of Armenia
– Laureate of Bela Bartok Festival – Debrecen, Hungary
– Numerous State Awards (Armenia) for continues contribution to the development of performing arts

Learn more about Karen Sargsyan


Gevorg Sargsyan is one of the youngest and most renowned Armenian conductors. Born in Yerevan, Armenia he made his first steps as a musician as a cellist. Aged 18, on his first year studying  in the Conducting Department of Yerevan Komitas State Musical Conservatory, Gevorg proved to be an advanced student and was selected by the Yerevan State Conservatory to fill the position of music director and conductor of Conservatory’s Symphony Orchestra. 

Gevorg has performed in numerous concerts in Armenia and overseas. Many musical critics and professionals describe him as a very young but uniquely gifted and promising conductor in the music world of our time.

He is currently Conductor of Singapore Camerata Chamber Orchestra and Tanglewood Music School. via Wikipedia

DDoA: When did you start playing cello?
GS: I was about 8, a standard age for admission to music schools in Armenia

DDoA: How often do you practice? perform?
GS: Practice – everyday. Sometimes longer, sometimes shorter, average 5 hours a day. Performing varies, it might be every week or once in a couple of months, there is no fixed schedule.

DDoA: Your most unforgettable cello performance so far?
GS: In a subway station in Vienna. I basically lost a bet about something silly with my course mate and I had to do this performance.  The funny thing was that the crowd was way more cheerful than in the concert halls

DDoA: Did your Dad influence you to study and play cello?
GS: He influenced me in many ways but not in the choice of instrument. After I made my conscious choice, he nurtured in me a true relation/connection with the cello.


Gevorg Sargsyan rehearsing for a concert in Singapore

DDoA: Was he your first teacher?
GS: Teacher of cello? No, I had a “proper” teacher in school. Dad helped me at home to practice when necessary. But Dad was and still is a life mentor; there are many things I have learned from him and values I inherited.

DDoA: Was your Dad strict about how much time and effort you put into practicing?
GS:  No, he only urged me to be responsible for anything I do and get things done on time. I did my own time management afterwards.

DDoA: Do you think it helps children when at least one of the parents play the instrument they are learning to play? How did that help you?
GS: I think it helps, mainly because you are surrounded by the environment that eventually influences you (my mother is a musician too, an opera singer). Also, if you have small troubles (like cello getting out of tune for example) there is someone at home to “rescue” you and you don’t need to wait for your teacher to deal with it.

DDoA: When did you start your profession as conductor? How did this affect your music playing?
GS: I was 17, just before making a choice to continue education in the University. At some point I realised that I wanted to have greater “control” over the music making process and at the same time take responsibility for it. Also, I had a personal desire to be a leader and conducting was a perfect fit.


Gevorg Sargsyan conducting in Singapore

DDoA: How do you balance your time between cello practice, practice with/conducting the orchestra?
GS: Well, I balance my time not only between these two but also family, teaching and running a business. Being a conductor helps me to manage time, just as I “balance” the sound between various instruments of the orchestra. At some point these balancing acts become a lifestyle and an extension of one’s self, so I don’t know how I do it…

Sir George Solti Award , 2006 -Emerging Artist of the year
Certificate of Appreciation – University of Philippines (College of Music)

Learn more about Gevorg Sargsyan

Here’s a video of Bizet’s Carmen overture as performed by the Armenian Opera Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Gevorg Sargsyan

KS & GS -1

Father and son – cellists and conductors- Karen and Gevorg Sargsyan
Photo taken during Karen’s recent visit to Singapore

DDoA: Have you ever performed together?
KS & GS: Yes, while Karen was conducting and Gevorg playing cello in the orchestra.

DDoA:  Do you inspire and influence each other’s practice as cellist and conductor?
KS & GS: Today we live in different continents, but when we are together we talk and discuss music a lot. Whether this influence us both is hard to say, but we keep learning from each other.

DDoA: What do you think is the greatest role of music in the world?
GS: I will cite two sayings: “Someone who listens to Mozart will unlikely commit a crime” & “If there is something to be changed in the world, then it can only happen through music, because music doesn’t lie”

image for headerSo do…explore the many possibilities of your musical expression. And reach out and bond with other musically-inclined members of your family- to inspire and guide you on your artistic journey.

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This entry was posted on September 1, 2014 by in Bond, Explore and tagged , , .
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