Carolyn Harper

Aug 112011
 
John Bilezikjian backstage before his Oud Concert at Wilshire Ebell Theatre, LA 1974.

John Bilezikjian backstage just before his Oud Concert at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre, Los Angeles, in 1974. Photo by Don Hagopian.

From the day he found his grandfather’s instrument, life and playing the oud have never been the same.  John Bilezikjian has devoted his life to music. He took an ancient folk instrument, the oud, and expanded its range into areas never before explored.

In this country, most people are only aware of the oud as the strange looking instrument that often backs up a belly dancer. Bilezikjian’s talent expanded far beyond smoky cabarets onto concert stages worldwide making him the most distinguished oudist of his generation. His hard work has earned him the title of “America’s Oud Virtuoso”.

The oud is an ancient eleven-stringed, fretless Persian instrument dating back more than 2000 years. It is played with an eagle’s feather. It is the precursor of the lute, guitar and other western stringed instruments, having been brought back to Europe by returning crusaders.

Bilezikjian has given command performances for heads of state, appeared on concert tours with Leonard Cohen, performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Pacific Symphony, the Pasadena Pops Orchestra, and the Los Angeles Mandolin orchestra, among others. In June 2005, he debuted with the Boston Pops Orchestra as featured soloist, marking the first time the oud was presented in a solo capacity in a classical concert setting.

Although they weren’t aware of it, movie lovers have heard his music for many years. Bilezikjian has recorded sound tracks for more than fifty films, including “Prince of Egypt”, “Spy Game”, “Siriana”, “Must Love Dogs”, and “Beowulf”.  His music can be heard on many PBS documentaries. His first job for the film industry was for the sound track of the “Mission Impossible” series on television when was 19 years old.

Bilezikjian’s record company, Dantz Records, located in Laguna Hills, CA, has produced more than 25 recordings encompassing folk, pop and classical genres.  They are available through his website DantzRecords.com.

John Bilezikjian

On August 21, 2011, John Bilezikjian will be performing in concert at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center.  In celebration of the 50 years he has dedicated to music, the concert will include friends with whom he has performed over the years, including members of his first band, the Halehs, formed when he was 10 years old.

For information on the upcoming concert, please visit FriendsOfJohnBilezikjian.com or call 1-855-OUD-DIST (1-855-683-3478).

Aug 052011
 

Chances are you have never heard his name. Odds are even higher you have never heard of the instrument he plays. Nevertheless, the Southland is home to a master musician who has spent the last 50 years performing worldwide on stages large and small. From intimate nightclubs, to European appearances before royalty, John Bilezikjian has become the foremost oudist in America.

Bilezikjian’s musical life began at age five with violin lessons from his father, Andrew, himself a classical violinist. During these early years, the boy listened to family recordings brought from Turkey when his parents had immigrated to the United States. In particular, the young musician was fascinated by the sound of the oud, an ancient Persian instrument popular on the old albums.

“What instrument is that?” he asked.

John Bilezikjian with new Onnik Karibyan oud 1966

John Bilezikjian photo was taken by his father Andrew Bilezikjian in 1966. John had just received a new Onnik Karibyan oud from his father. John’s Aunt Sona Dardarian, had brought it from Istanbul, Turkey, holding it on her lap during the flight from Turkey. He still has possession of this marvelous instrument.

In answer, his mother went upstairs to his grandfather’s room to get the elder’s oud. The boy held the instrument in his lap, unaware of its roots that reach back 2,500 years. As he experimented with its 11 strings, he didn’t care that it was the forerunner to the lute or that it had no frets. He just wanted to make the wonderful sounds he heard on the scratchy albums. After that, it’s likely his grandfather didn’t get much playing time as his grandson seldom put it down.

By the time he had celebrated his eleventh birthday, John Bilezikjian formed his first band, the Halehs, with other musical buddies from church. They quickly found themselves in demand for all sorts of events within the Armenian community, keeping their parents busy driving them to these jobs.

Before he graduated from CSUN, Bilezikjian was a working musician, regularly performing on TV and motion picture soundtracks, and cabarets. During this time of professional growth, his presentations of classical and folkloric music skyrocketed in skill and repertoire.

With half a century of musical experience under his belt, Bilezikjian has become adept at creating complex note progressions, thus moving uncomplicated melodies into dramatically rich musical passages. This expertise, coupled with his encyclopedic knowledge of many ethnic music genres, in all their intricacies, has made him the first choice for all manner of performance and musical education opportunities.

Mr. Bilezikjian has his own record company, DantzRecords.com where he has more than 25 recordings available.

John Bilezikjian, "America's Oud Virtuoso"

On August 21, 2011, John Bilezikjian will be performing in concert at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center.  In celebration of the 50 years he has dedicated to music, the concert will include friends with whom he has performed over the years, including members of his first band, the Halehs, formed when he was 10 years old.

For information on the upcoming concert, please visit JohnBilezikjianFoundation.com or call 1-855-OUD-DIST (1-855-683-3478).

Jul 162011
 
John Bilezikjian oud 1960s

John Bilezikjian 1960s

Some of John Bilezikjian’s earliest memories are of Sunday afternoons when his house filled with scores of friends and family who often brought their instruments for a day of fellowship and the songs they loved. In a home imbued with Armenian tradition and music, Bilezikjian became fascinated with a strange looking instrument in his grandfather’s bedroom.

As the boy held the instrument in his lap and experimented with its 11 strings, he didn’t care that it was the forerunner to the lute or that its history reached back 2,500 years. He just wanted to make the wonderful music he saw others performing in his living room.

Continue reading »

Jul 152011
 

It began with violin lessons at the age of five from his father, Andrew. It continued in a home imbued with Armenian tradition and music where, on Sundays, scores of friends and family gathered after church, often bringing their instruments for a day of fellowship and the songs they loved. Wrapped in familial love, the boy could never have imagined the experiences that lay ahead of him, all because of his childish curiosity about a strange looking instrument in his grandfather’s bedroom.

Continue reading »

drjls 1260510008 fxfmqtz jsyckh fjpdfs bcylspn drjls 1260510008 fxfmqtz jsyckh fjpdfs bcylspn drjls 1260510008 fxfmqtz jsyckh fjpdfs bcylspn