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, 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 or call 1-855-OUD-DIST (1-855-683-3478).

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