Photo courtesy of Michael Krikorian (above)

This doctor’s prescription: A musical composition

By MARISA MATA, Student Writer

A mother drives through town, classical music on the radio. Her baby is in the backseat, taking in the sounds. Moments like this seem simple enough, but for Michael Krikorian (2011) these moments were something more.

They were the initial moments of his life as a musician. The melodies filling the air were the ones to spark his love for piano, leading him down a path of intensive study around the country and the world, to a collection of first-place titles in music competitions and to the accomplishment of a childhood dream.

As a child, Krikorian tapped on piano keys, trying to recreate the songs he heard in video games and cartoons.

“I’ve played quite a lot of video games throughout my life…It has always been a dream of mine to compose for games, so seeing my name pop up in the credits for The Fidelio Incident gives me chills every time,” Krikorian said in a recent interview, about composing and performing for the video game thriller released last year.

His composition has received “unanimous critical acclaim.”

Videos courtesy of Michael Krikorian

Krikorian began formally studying piano when he was 12, taking lessons from Fresno State Professor Andreas Werz.

“Andreas Werz invited me to a Philip Lorenz Keyboard Concert featuring his student, Eric Brelsford. I was blown away by the music and the virtuosity of his playing.”

“I remember thinking how amazing it must be to have the ability to sit down and perform more than an hour of music — and get paid for it! It seemed daunting at the time, since I was only just learning to play Clementi Sonatinas and Bach Two-part Inventions, but I was determined to make it happen.”

Krikorian went on to study at Fresno State, but broke his right index finger during the semester he was supposed to perform his final undergraduate recital.

“My brother hit a ball out of my hand and it snapped the tip of my finger. It was devastating at the time to not be able to play with my right hand, and I did worry I wouldn’t fully recover my abilities. I think when you’re really passionate about something it becomes more than just a hobby, or career — it becomes a fundamental part of your identity. So, contemplating the possibility of not being able to play music the same way caused a bit of an existential crisis.”

It took a few months and surgery for Krikorian to fully recover, but he did manage to complete his final recital — using only his left hand.

“This piece is an homage to my favorite composer, Alexander Scriabin. His Prelude and Nocturne for the LH, Op. 9 was one of the pieces that kept me from going insane when I broke the index finger of my right hand about 6 years ago.”

Krikorian has continued studying music after graduating from Fresno State — spending summers in Italy and Seattle, earning his Master of Music in piano performance from the Manhattan School of Music and going on to pursue a Doctor of Musical Arts at USC.

“Of all the schools I’ve studied at, I feel the strongest sense of attachment to Fresno State. I spent nearly 10 of my most formative years on that campus…Every time I go back it feels like returning home.”

Through the course of his studies, Krikorian has come to think of the piano as his own voice, which he uses to convey pure emotions with people during performances.

“During an ideal performance I think in pure, abstract feelings. Music can be a conduit for the expression of feelings. If I am engaged and focused during a performance, I feel like I become a vessel for delivering those raw emotions to the audience, though I can’t always reach that place — sometimes I get too caught up in the technical details of the performance. My goal is to sort all that out in the practice room so that in a performance I can focus entirely on the music itself — to think in music, as Philip Glass says.”

Krikorian graduated from USC this May with his doctorate. He’s spent the last few years as a graduate teaching assistant and teaching at schools around Los Angeles. His goal is to teach at the university level.

Because he’s been so focused on his studies, he hasn’t taken on any other big compositions like The Fidelio Incident this year. Although, he has composed a piece he hopes to work into his next solo performance and hopes to compose for another game or a movie or television show.

“My dream is to write something that people enjoy enough to want to play for themselves.”

“I grew up on video game music and would spend a lot of time trying to pick out those tunes by ear on the piano. If I could compose something that inspires people to do the same, then it would make me happier than words could express.”

Click here to learn more about Krikorian and his compositions.

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