Tigran Shiganyan: Building cultural bridges through music

Music alumnus motivated by gratitude.

In 2017, Tigran Shiganyan released a cd/dvd with music written by his mother, composer Dilorom Saidaminova.
One of Dr. Shiganyan's recordings is of the music of Alfred Schnittke which was also the topic of his doctoral dissertation.

Uzbekistani-born violinist Tigran Shiganyan is a grateful man. He views every opportunity he has been given as a blessing, and now it is his life’s work to give back as much as he can.

From his early days as student at the Uspensky Music School for Gifted Children in Tashkent, he has felt profoundly appreciative for his parents, family and teachers. In Uzbekistan, at Duquesne University where he earned his master’s degree, and at the College of Music at Michigan State University where he completed his doctorate, he feels fortunate to have had teachers who have unconditionally given him their best.

“In Uzbekistan we have expression: the parents give you life; the teachers prolong your life,” Dr. Shiganyan said enthusiastically. “Many people in my life have given me on a daily basis support, help, knowledge and just simple happiness. I truly believe it is my turn, and I have to return everything, maybe even more.”

In addition to performing regularly with the Lansing and Kalamazoo symphony orchestras, Dr. Shiganyan returns to his home country twice each year, performing with the National Symphony Orchestra of Uzbekistan and Chamber Orchestra Turkistan. He organizes master classes at two music schools for gifted children and at the National Conservatory of Uzbekistan, which named him an honorary professor last year. He also sits on juries for international competitions and conservatory examinations. But among his favorite activities are his interactions with faculty from the MSU College of Music.

Dr. Shiganyan has welcomed half a dozen top faculty from the College to Uzbekistan for special performances and master classes. The first was his teacher, violinist Dmitri Berlinsky, an experience that from rehearsals through the performance Dr. Shiganyan describes as magical. Other performances in his home country featured flutist Richard Sherman who has also worked with Dr. Shiganyan on concerts in Michigan and “has beautifully shared his knowledge and art.”

Dr. Shiganyan describes performances and master classes by cellist Suren Bagratuni as breathtaking, and a visit from violist Yuri Gandelsman as priceless and special. In addition, Dr. Shiganyan has worked with renowned Maestro Leon Gregorian, professor emeritus of the college, who he said “always supported and helped me and every student on a daily basis.”

Late last year, College of Music Dean James Forger and Professor Deborah Moriarty, piano, went to Uzbekistan to work with Dr. Shiganyan on master classes and a sold out concert featuring a repertoire of all American music. Their trip also saw Dean Forger and Professor Moriarty performing in India at concerts arranged by Music alumna Jenny Heemstra who created Kolkata Classics, a movement to empower women, inspire underprivileged youth, and build cross-cultural bridges through western classical music in India.

“The entire trip enhanced my appreciation for the multiplier effect of how our graduates can use music as a means of artistic communication,” Dean Forger said. “There were packed houses for both Jenny’s and Tigran’s organized performances, and in fact there were extended ovations for the concert Tigran conducted. It was empowering, fulfilling, and important to see our alumni at a distance from their days here, making a difference and touching thousands of lives.”

Tigran Shiganyan, center, at the 2017 Gala Award ceremony of "The Akadêmia Awards" in Los Angeles where he received an award in the "Best World Beat Music Video" category.

For Dr. Shiganyan, one of the greatest gifts is knowing that despite their jam-packed schedules, so many MSU professors found the time to come Uzbekistan and share their musical artistry.

“For me, it is an absolutely unbelievable experience,” he said. “Each person has their own viewpoint, and each performance, rehearsal and conversation was special in many ways – that wonderful exchange of visions of the world. I feel fortunate have been able to witness that in my life.”

In addition to multiple concerts in Uzbekistan, Dr. Shiganyan works with the Flint Institute of Music, offering master classes and sectionals for orchestras in the areas. He offers extra coaching and guidance for kids in Flint and Lansing as well. Recently, he was appointed artistic director for the Central Asia and Midwest United States regions of Global Music Partnership, a platform designed for creative collaboration between distinguished performing artists, composers, creative individuals and organizations around the world.

Still, even with all of his work and the concerts in his homeland, Dr. Shiganyan feels he hasn’t accomplished much yet. Instead, he is grateful for each experience, seeing it as his duty to help others. His reward is what he receives personally from each experience.

“I would love to do many more good things, to share what I have and serve the people surrounding me,” he said. “We never know what’s happening in the future, but what I see me doing is of course connecting through music. Music is my life! I would love to make culture bridges between Uzbekistan and Michigan because I truly believe all could learn from each other which will enrich all of us and make each of us happier.”

While his love of music and the support he has felt over the years began early in his childhood, Dr. Shiganyan feels he owes a lot to the MSU College of Music. He said he had a tremendous experience studying in the college and found inspiration that will last him a lifetime.

“At Michigan State University I had one of the greatest times of my life,” he said, “full of learning, discovering, inspiration and priceless knowledge. The program has a great balance between academics and performance that helped me learn one of the most important things – if music truly touches your heart, it will for sure touch hearts and souls of the audience.”

So with gratitude for such important life and career lessons, Tigran Shiganyan will continue his personal and professional journey to use music as a means to collaborate and enrich the lives of as many people as he can. It is a task never truly completed, but one he gladly undertakes.

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