A Conversation with the 2020 Concerto Competition Winner Azniv Khaligian ’22
At Carthage, student musicians can compete for the opportunity to perform with the Carthage Philharmonic in the annual Concerto Competition. The works are often technically demanding and the collaboration with a large ensemble often forces musicians out of their comfort zones. Azniv Khaligian ’22 won the competition back in 2020, but due to COVID-19 pandemic the concert was canceled. This month, Azniv will be able to showcase her dedication as a musician with a performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending with the Philharmonic! Leading up to the concert, I sat down with Azniv to discuss the preparation for this performance, her experiences with the new violin faculty, and her plans for the future.
You won the Concerto Competition in 2020, but have had to wait two years due to the pandemic. How does it feel finally being able to perform as a soloist with the Philharmonic?
The feeling of performing with the Philharmonic now is different from the excitement I felt as a sophomore. I’ve grown a lot over the two years since that Concerto Competition. I’ve changed teachers and given a junior recital, which had a lot of challenging repertoire. For this performance, I have more confidence and assurance that it’s going to be good.
Normally, you play with the Philharmonic as the concertmaster. How has it been working with the orchestra in a more collaborative manner as a soloist?
It’s hard. With a pianist, it’s much easier to do that collaboration since it’s just one person to line up with them musically and have them read your cues. When playing with a whole group, the conductor has to translate what I’m doing to the orchestra. That is something I have very little experience with, so I am definitely learning quickly how I need to communicate to the conductor and orchestra.
Especially with more intermediaries to go through for said communication.
Yeah. It is more stressful than I would like, but it is a really valuable learning experience as a musician.
You have been working on the piece with Dr. Charlene Kluegel, the new violin faculty. How has it been working with her?
She is awesome. Every teacher has their strengths and priorities, and I think her goals with me really suit my needs as a senior. She is pushing me to find my artistic voice and how to conceptualize pieces versus fixating on getting all the notes. It’s flipping priorities from focusing on technique first then adding the musicality to focusing on my musical interpretation first, and using my technique to support that interpretation. This mindset change has ended up helping me learn the music faster, because if I have an idea of what I want to do with a difficult passage, the notes become less scary to tackle.
You are not just a music major, but are also studying neuroscience. How has it been balancing the two throughout these past four years?
I still have to work on balancing them every day. Right now, I am working on my neuroscience thesis on absolute pitch–also called perfect pitch–which is the ability to identify a note without a reference tone. That research has been really fun and motivating. I was even able to use my violin teacher as a case study subject for one of the papers. Finding that link between neuroscience and music has made this semester particularly enjoyable, because I feel like both subjects are less polarized and I can bring my musical knowledge into neuroscience. It is easier to bring neuroscience into music through performance psychology or methods of learning, but sometimes it’s harder to bring music into neuroscience since many people do not have the musical background knowledge. I get to be a music communicator in science instead of being a science communicator in music, which is what I normally do in the rest of my life.
Besides this performance, what are you looking forward to before you graduate?
I am looking forward to my senior recital on April 3rd. It has been a lot of fun preparing for it. I am also looking forward to the couple months after the recital, since I can just learn music I’ve always wanted to play without the expectation of having to perform it. I’m also continuing my harp lessons and am hoping to play harp in one of the philharmonic concerts, while I still have access to the fantastic instruments and faculty.
What do you want to do after Carthage?
I’ve prepared myself well to enter the employment arena. I have three types of jobs I’m looking for. One is as a research assistant at a large university to get a feel for that type of academic research. Carthage has been fantastic in giving me a liberal arts education, but I want to experience working at a research university. It would not only help me decide if that is something I want to continue as a career, but would also prepare me for a doctoral program if I choose that path.
I would also like to do rotationals at a pharmaceutical company or biology-centric company to learn about labs and quality operations. Many companies have really good programs for recent graduates.
Otherwise, I am very interested in the effective altruism movement. The Center for Effective Altruism identifies various fields and jobs that are making a greater impact in the world around us. Some of these fields include cybersecurity, food security, and environmental sustainability. There are so many different types of jobs available and many organizations have great programs for people who want to enter this effective altruism style of work. Through this movement, I could not only find work that I find satisfying, but also make a difference to the communities around me.
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Watch Azniv Khaligian ’22 perform with the Carthage Philharmonic Concert on Thursday, March 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the A. F. Siebert Chapel. Tickets to the concert are free and must be obtained in advance. To obtain your reserved tickets, please visit www.carthage.edu/tickets 24/7 or call the Fine Arts Box Office 262-551-6661 from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Join us also from home through our live stream: live.carthage.edu.