Loris Chobanian, Composer






Professor of Composition and Guitar as well as Composer-in-Residence at Baldwin-Wallace College Conservatory, Loris Ohannes Chobanian was born to Armenian parents in the Middle East. He was introduced to serious music at an early age. His father Ohannes Chobanian, an oil engineer and an amateur musician, was a versatile performer on the piano, the flute and the violin and often performed in quartets of Haydn, Mozart and Schubert. Chobanian performed the Classical Guitar regularly on Baghdad TV In the 1950s. He came to the US in 1960 and performed on TV in Louisiana and in Michigan. 

Highly successful and versatile as a composer, Dr. Chobanian is equally at home with complex contemporary textures and colorful orchestration.  He was instrumental in establishing the BW Conservatory Guitar and Composition programs as well as the Focus Contemporary Music Festival. He has taught at the Oberlin Conservatory and the University of Akron.


In 1973 he became the first Guitar Division Chairman of the American String Teachers’ Association. He organized the first ASTA Guitar Conference in Cleveland, which for the first time brought together the university and college guitar teachers in the country. The conference became the model that has been emulated by conferences of the Guitar Foundation of America ever since.

Winner of many ASCAP awards and grants from the Ohio Arts Council and the Cleveland Arts Council, an award for excellence from the University of Loyola, New Orleans, LA, he was the recipient of the 1981 Cleveland Arts Prize. Among his many commissions include those from the Cleveland Ballet, the Ohio Chamber Orchestra, the American Wind Symphony, the Toronto International Guitar Festival, the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, the Groton Central School in New York, the Nebraska Wesleyan University, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the Skidmore College Orchestra, Saratoga Springs, NY, and the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN.

An expert conductor, he often conducts his own compositions as guest composer with university, high school and professional orchestras.  Chobanian’s compositions written for orchestra, symphonic wind ensemble, ballet, chamber music, choral and solo works are published by more than twelve publishers and many of his compositions are recorded on the following labels: New World, Dorian, Albany, GSP, Musicaphon, Blaze of Glory and BIS.

During the academic year 2005-2006, Chobanian premiered three new compositions: Miniatures for Violoncello and Orchestra was premiered by the BW Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dwight Oltman with Regina Mushabac, cello. Divertimento for Cello Ensemble was premiered with a Cello Orchestra of forty cellists conducted by the composer, and The Mad Violin for solo violin which was written for and premiered by violinist Julian Ross. Texturas - Piano Trio No 2, in five movements, was premiered by the Elysian Trio in 2007. The Ludwig Music Publishing Co. published - Komitas - The Tortured Soul for String Orchestra based on melodies by Komitas Vartabed. The composition depicts the last days of the master.


On Sunday, January 28, 2007 the BW Conservatory Faculty presented an all Chobanian Solo and Chamber Music concert at the Gamble Auditorium of the Conservatory. The program ended with the composer conducting the World Premiere of Rhapsody for Alto Saxophone and Strings with Greg Banaszak, saxophone and the BW String Faculty Quintet. The audience gave the composer and the performers a prolonged standing ovation. On March 8, 2007, the University of Minnesota presented a festival of Chobanian’s music entitled “CHOBANIANA” in which eight of his compositions were performed and the next day on March 9, 2007 in adjacent St. Paul MN, the University of St. Thomas Symphonic Wind Ensemble conducted by Matthew George, with Christopher Kachian, guitar, presented the World Premiere of Chobanian’s Armenian Rhapsody for Guitar and Symphonic Wind Ensemble.


Armenian Rhapsody was commissioned and premiered by the University of St. Thomas Symphonic Wind Ensemble. The commission stipulated that the work, for Guitar and Symphonic Wind Ensemble, be based on the Armenian melodic tradition. The three required competencies exactly matched the composer’s expertise.


Instead of using existing Armenian melodies, the composer created themes that use motives from many different Armenian folk tunes. Whereas usually an Armenian melody will have one or two motives that would define its character he has juxtaposed several motives from different melodies in close proximity making them intensely Armenian and very rhapsodic. Although the composition is in three movements Armenian Rhapsody is not a concerto but rather its form is reminiscent of that of the Renaissance multi-thematic ricercare where a series of themes are presented in succession.


In May of 2007, the University of St. Thomas ensemble performed Armenian Rhapsody on tour in major cities in China. Chinese audiences received the work enthusiastically.  On January 25, 2008, the Cello version of Armenian Rhapsody was premiered by Regina Mushabac with the BW Symphonic Wind Ensemble conducted by Dwight Oltman.


On December 1, 2007, the Baldwin-Wallace College Singers, conducted by Mel Unger, presented the world premiere of “REQUIEM - APRIL 24,” in Armenian text, to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. The program also featured Chobanian’s KADDISH for a young Artist, in Aramaic, to commemorate the Jewish Holocaust.  The BW Singers learned the Armenian text phonetically. The Armenian language, a direct descendant of the ancient Phrygian, belongs to a separate and independent branch of the Indo-European languages. The Armenian alphabet invented in 405 AD by Bishop Mesrop Mashtots enhanced the possibility and made it more convenient for the Bible to be translated to Armenian. The renowned American anthropologist Margaret Mead advocated the use of Armenian as a universal language to be used in the United Nations.



“REQUIEM – APRIL 24” has strongly contrasting instrumental and choral passages. In the introduction there is a tribute to the celibate priest, composer Komitas Vartabed who was among the many Armenian intellectuals in Istanbul, Turkey, who were victimized on April 24, 1915. Chobanian has set the vocal parts in the Armenian choral tradition. It is powerful as well as practical, making it appropriate for a good Armenian Church choral group to perform. The World Premiere became a special occasion for those who wanted to make a statement against “Genocide” and bring attention to the Darfur Genocide.


In February of 2007 the composer and his wife Deanna visited several cities in Andalusia, Spain and heard numerous excellent performances of flamenco music. The idea of composing Tango Fantasy germinated during that time in Spain. Melodic patterns of flamenco music have often been influenced by those of the Middle East, especially in the vocal renditions of flamenco. Tango Fantasy uses Middle Eastern melodies. Years ago, when flamenco guitarist Carlos Montoya heard that the composer had lived in Baghdad, he said: “You have come from the land of my ancestors. “ Regardless of the many theories and studies that have traced the history of the two dances, the aim of Tango Fantasy was to create something new and that it does. Tango Fantasy was premiered on March 5, 2008 by the BW Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dwight Oltman with BW Alumna flamenco/classical guitarist Marija Temo.


Tango Fantasy for Guitar and Orchestra combines the characteristic qualities of both the Argentinean Tango and the Flamenco Tango of Andalusia. Over the years, continents apart, these two dances of the same name have pursued their own individual paths and have developed their own distinct personalities. However, there are noticeable characteristics that hint at their common ancestry. In both dances, for example, we witness a compulsive need for the phrases to end in resolute and excited pulsation.


During the (2008-2009) academic year there were four World Premieres scheduled. On Saturday, September 13, 2008, Dialogue – Sonata for Two Pianos was premiered by Nicole Keller and William Shaffer, piano. Music For Lauren, a collection of ten Piano Solos was premiered by Robert Mayerovitch, piano, Saturday, September 20, 2008. And on Sunday December 14, 2008, The BW Youth Orchestra conducted by the composer presented the World Premiere of Dowland In Armenia for String Orchestra. On February 27, 2009, the BW Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Dwight Oltman presented the US Premiere of Legends for Orchestra in Four Movements. (See You Tube). Capriccio for Violin and Symphonic Wind Ensemble was premiered on March 27, 2009, BW Symphonic Wind Ensemble conducted by Dwight Oltman with Julian Ross, violin.

Copyright (c) 2009 Loris Chobanian