Apr 09, 2020

Student-composer takes a note from his families tumultuous past

Joseph Bohigian’s life could have ended long before it started.

Instead, the Fresno State senior thrives today as a 21-year-old music composer.

Bohigian thanks his great-grandmother who survived the Armenian Genocide in 1915.

Unlike most of her family and the millions of Armenians who became casualties, Bohigian’s great-grandmother escaped the attack by the Ottoman government.

In 1920, she fled to Fresno with her mother, and they helped build the foundation for a community that would host many generations of Armenians.

All this became clear for Bohigian as he was doing research to prepare for the Fresno State New Music Ensemble concert which would commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

“With writing my piece specifically, I did a lot of research into the genocide,“ Bohigian said. “I read a lot of books about recognition of the genocide and denial. I also looked into my own family history. Most, if not all of my great-grandparents, were genocide survivors.”

Bohigian was one of seven Armenian composers featured at the Fresno State New Music Ensemble Concert.

His piece, “In the Shadow of Ararat,” was written specifically for the concert.

“The piece was written to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, and I used influences from Armenian folk and sacred music in the piece,” Bohigian said.

The title of the work is a reference to Mount Ararat, a national symbol for the Armenian people.

The contour of the music is modeled after Mount Ararat’s two peaks and the Holy Trinity, used structurally throughout the work.

Ararat overlooks the skyline of Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, which lies just beyond the border of Turkey.

Bohigian started working on the piece last November. He organized the concert as part of the honors program in the College of Arts and Humanities.

“I originally decided to write a piece commemorating the centennial, but also using Armenian music. And that grew into organizing the concert,” Bohigian said.

Fresno State student Nathaniel Musso performed with Bohigian as a pianist.

“It was really neat working with him,” Musso said. “I think he has done a good job of getting the ensemble going. We were performing this to commemorate a major event. It’s something that’s really important to a lot of people in Fresno, because Fresno has a really strong Armenian community.”

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