VP leaves Aspen Music Fest for Boston Symphony Orchestra
Asadour Santourian has helped lead Aspen programs since 2003
Asadour Santourian, a longtime artistic leader of the Aspen Music Festival and School, has left the organization for a post with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Santourian, who had been with the Aspen cultural institution since 2003, began this week as BSO’s vice president of Tanglewood Music Center and learning.
“This was the right fit, as it speaks to an area of both my willingness and capacity to nurture and mentor young talents,” Santourian said Thursday from Boston, “as well as programming, which is an ongoing first love.”
Santourian was the longest-tenured executive in the triumvirate of men at the top of the Aspen Music Festival, serving as its vice president of artistic administration and guiding the organization alongside president and CEO Alan Fletcher and music director Robert Spano.
A fixture at orchestra rehearsals and concerts in the Benedict Music Tent, Santourian served as a mentor to countless musicians and conductors as they transitioned from students into professionals.
“Asadour’s 18 years in Aspen were characterized by creativity, imagination, and impeccable attention to detail,” Fletcher said via e-mail Friday. “Among many notable accomplishments are his essential work with our (Aspen) Conducting Academy, brilliant record of adventurous programming, and commitment to broadening and diversifying our repertoire, but these are only a few.”
Among Santourian’s initiatives were implementing themes and sub-themes to program concerts for the summer seasons, giving audiences links between sometimes disparate works, uniting programs and also providing a focus on particular composers.
“It was a place where I could dream out loud my musical ideas and put everyone on a journey with these ideas,” Santourian said.
He saw ups and downs at the organization, including its controversial downsizing in 2010, when the festival shortened its season by a week and shrunk its annual student body and faculty, the game-changing redevelopment of its Castle Creek campus that opened in 2016 and the historic cancellation of the in-person 2020 concert season due to the coronavirus pandemic and the move to virtual concerts.
In recent years, Santourian led efforts to spotlight diverse composers and bring canon-expanding works to the festival by composers who have been historically sidelined due to race and gender. In 2021, he helped the festival launch its initiative programming composers who identify as “AMELIA” (African-American, Middle Eastern, Latin, Indigenous, and Asian).
“I always had an artistic imperative, never a political position of any sort,” he noted of his work on equity and diversity.
Aspen concert audiences knew Santourian best for his colorful and informative pre-concert talks during the summer seasons.
An audience member in 2014 wrote to The Aspen Times that Santourian’s “gift as a storyteller and teacher let us experience with humor and simple words what we are about to hear, like any good storyteller as if he was your favorite uncle telling a Gebrüder Grimm bedtime story.”
At the new post, Santourian will mentor young and emerging artists in the vaunted Tanglewood program of about 125 musicians, conductors and composers annually while also overseeing the symphony’s training, education and community programs. He’ll also convene talks and panels at Tanglewood.
Santourian came to Aspen from his role as artistic director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic in Holland, before that working as an artistic planning for the Minnesota Orchestra.
His last day with the Music Fest was Jan. 13. Santourian said he is pleased with and proud of the current state of the organization and is hopeful for its future.
“My hope is that they will maintain the direction established currently,” Santourian said, adding that he is excited for his successor to take the reins: “My hope is that he, she, they, whomever the person is, will bring different ears and different eyes, and continue to take all the participants on the journey.”
Fletcher said that the organization is well into the process of finding a new vice president for artistic administration and has drawn interest from candidates around the world.
“It is a tribute to Asadour that his former position is considered one of the most sought-after anywhere,” Fletcher said.
The festival is expected to announce next week details about its 2022 summer season, themed around artistic and cultural identity and titled “Tapestries.” It will run June 30-Aug. 21.