Remembering Aaron Markarian

A beautiful voice, stilled

The university community is mourning the tragic death of Aaron Markarian, an undergraduate vocal student in the Conservatory of Music and Dance.

His shocking murder silenced a beautiful voice and a blossoming talent. A senior baritone on track to graduate with a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance in May, Aaron was a critically acclaimed singer and a beloved presence in both the conservatory and the broader community.

According to an article in The Kansas City Star, “A reviewer in recent years called one of Markarian’s performances ‘superb,’ adding that he possessed a magnificent, full voice and commanding stage presence. Markarian also won a scholarship last year from the Kansas City Musical Club after competing in an audition.”

Members of the conservatory faculty also offered praise for both his performances and his personality.

“Aaron Markarian brought people together.  Joyful, curious, and creative, Aaron is the kind of person and musician UMKC seeks to serve,” said Peter Witte, dean of the conservatory. “The conservatory holds him, his family, and his many friends in our hearts during a time of unspeakable sadness. We are grateful for our time with him, and we cherish Aaron’s spirit.”

Anne DeLaunay, associate professor of vocal studies, was Aaron’s primary voice teacher. “Aaron’s short life was spectacularly brilliant because of his commitment to music, knowledge and the sheer joy of living.  The gusto with which he lived his life and pursued his music is a beacon for the rest of us,” she said.

“I was fortunate to conduct Aaron in this month’s performances of Britten’s opera, ‘A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream.’  He sang the role of one of the lovers – Demetrius,” said Professor Robert Bode, Chair of the Vocal Studies Division. “His character was romantic, passionate and bold.  It was a perfect role for Aaron, who also exhibited these characteristics.  Aaron was challenged by this music, and also energized by it.  I could see Aaron working hard at every rehearsal.  In the end, he got the character exactly right.  Aaron’s Demetrius lit up the stage.”

Aaron, his roommates and friends were celebrating that performance in a post-production party at their off-campus home when he was killed during a robbery.

Marciem Bazell, the conservatory’s director of opera, said Aaron, 23, was originally from Warrensburg. His principal roles in conservatory opera productions included The Father in “Hänsel und Gretel” his freshman year; Zuniga in “La Tragédie de Carmen” last spring; Vicomte Cascada in “Die Lustige Witwe” this past December; as well as Demetrius in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“He was complicated, talented, brilliant, funny and fearless,” Bazell said. “He loved working, he loved the process and he loved hard and sometimes excruciating physicality on stage and off.  He was the first one to rehearsal, where he would fling himself all over the rehearsal space warming up the physical part of all his roles and looking for a spark that would reach the audience. He was a brilliant comic, a sultry lover and a skilled combatant on stage.

“He would come into my office on a regular basis to have tea and talk about French repertoire.  His thirst for knowledge was never-ending.”

Bazell said Aaron was into cooking and supplied the whole cast and crew with hot homemade bread at rehearsals.

“Friday and Sunday he gave the performance of his life,” Dale Morehouse, associate professor of music, told KCTV-5 in an interview. “He was everything one could hope for in a conservatory or UMKC student. He was filled with talent and imagination and creativity and motivation and kindness and charisma.”

“He brought out the best of people around him, made the work light, while still being serious about it,” Morehouse told the station.

The UMKC Counseling Center is available to help those affected by the tragedy; the center can be reached at 816-235-1635.

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