Composer John Sarkissian is the author of symphonic, chamber, stage, choral, vocal and solo instrumental music. Living in Canada since 2009, John has lived on three continents. He was born in Tehran-Iran into a family of Armenian emigrants from Russia. His initial music studies were with private teachers in his native city. His first compositions appeared when he was only 13. He has studied composition and piano at “Conservatorio Giuseppe Nicolini” in Piacenza, Italy, and in the United States, at UCLA, and New England Conservatory of Boston, where he received his graduate degrees. Among his composition teachers have been Shaheen Farhat, Paul Reale, Ian Krouse, Russell Steinberg, and John Heiss. His piano teachers include Sheldon Steinberg, and the legendary Canadian pianist Johana Harris, the widow of the American composer Roy Harris. He has also studied composition privately with composer John Corigliano.
John Sarkissian’s music has been heard in Canada, the United States, Germany, Austria, Italy, Iceland, Poland, Armenia, Paraguay and the Middle East, and on NPR and Icelandic radio channels performed by such artists and ensembles as Hasmik Papian, Keith Lockhart, Luis Szarán, Aram Gharabekian, Gunnsteinn Ólafsson, Armen Babakhanian, Esther Budiardjo, Doriot Anthony Dwyer, Luis Leguia, Emanuel Feldman, Penelope Bitzas, Anna Maria Pammer, Yeghishe Manucharian, Victoria Avetisyan, Gottlieb Wallisch, Susanna Martirosyan, Carmen Rodríguez-Peralta, Nouné Karapetian, the Boston Pops Orchestra, National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia, Orquesta Sinfónica de la Ciudad de Asunción, the Icelandic Youth Orchestra, the Arden String Quartet, Brass Domain, etc., and at venues such as Boston Symphony Hall, the New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, Yerevan “Komitas” Chamber Music Hall, Siglufjord Music Festival, and others.
As a pianist, performing mostly his own compositions, he has appeared in Iran, Germany, Canada and the USA. His theatrical work “Gruesome Grey Pulp” was performed at the well known Berlin venue Radialsystem V in June of 2011. The same month also witnessed his compositional debut at Boston’s Symphony Hall where the renowned soprano Hasmik Papian appearing with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra conducted by Keith Lockhart premiered Sarkissian’s new piece.
Sarkissian’s choral song-cycle “the Birds” for soloists, mixed chorus and two pianos, and his “Theme and Variations for Solo Piano” have received 1st prize at the Armenian Allied Arts Association’s annual competitions in California. Most recently he received first prize at the 2010-11 International “Garden Music” Competition in Poland for his piece “The Lovers’ Garden” for soprano and chamber orchestra. This piece, in a new expanded orchestration, was given its North-American premiere on January 14, 2012 in Ottawa by the soprano Maria Knapik and the Ottawa Chamber Orchestra headed by the conductor David Thies Thompson.
John Sarkissian’s colorful music shows the influences of his varied background. In spite of general American eclecticism principles which guide and shape his sound world, John Sarkissian’s predilection for polytonality and strong, albeit irregular rhythms gives his music its particular Oriental-Eastern-European flavor.
His music has been heard on PBS radio channels in USA as well as on Icelandic and Armenian radios. He has been a frequent guest of various TV and radio channels in Canada and Armenia. Sarkissian became a founder-member of “Just in Time Composers and Players” in 1995 in Boston. He is a co-founder and co-director of the Austro-Armenian Music Festival (AAF)(2009). He has served on the board of directors of the Ottawa based arts organizations Ars Universalis and Ottawa New Music Creators. For the latter organization he served as president of the board in 2011.
His song cycle “Cypriot Songs for Maria Jane”, based on Cypriot folk songs has been published by and is available at Classical Vocal Repertoire. His recent CD “Just in Time Now and Then” contains his “Theme and Variations for Solo Piano” performed by Gottlieb Wallisch on Living Artist Recordings label.
John Sarkissian is currently working on an historical opera based on the history of Russia’s last tsar and tsarina until their downfall during the October revolution.