A Conversation With Chris Ayzoukian ’99, EMBA ’07

When did you discover your interest in music?
My mom was an amateur violinist in Bulgaria, so there was always music in the family. When I was 8, I started playing around with a piano at a relative’s house, and I told my mom I wanted to take lessons. Later on, it was more difficult to focus on music because I just wanted to play sports, but I kept at it through high school. When it came time for college, I decided to pursue music. I attended an LA Phil concert when I was in high school and discovered that there was a whole management staff supporting what happens on stage. I knew in college that I didn’t want to be a professional composer — composition is such a lonely process — so I decided I wanted to help creative people from behind the scenes.

What has been your career highlight thus far?
There are two. The first was opening Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2003. The second was the transition between our music directors, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Gustavo Dudamel in 2009. First, we bid farewell to Esa-Pekka Salonen in a set of very moving concerts. Then to welcome Gustavo Dudamel, our new music director, we presented a big community event, “¡Bienvenido Gustavo!” We had a packed house of 18,000 at the Hollywood Bowl for an all-day festival and an opening gala downtown at Walt Disney Concert Hall. That was a special week.

How have the changes in music delivery affected your job?
The golden age of orchestra recording is gone. More people get music via streaming methods than by buying CDs. We are trying to create access to classical music. Of the almost 250 concerts a year the LA Phil offers, about 30 are part of a national radio broadcast series, and one LA Phil concert is usually filmed for television and DVD distribution. Plus, we do four iTunes recordings every year of concerts that we release as download-only products.

Are you working on any new projects that have you especially excited?
LA Phil Live (www.laphil.com/laphillive). It’s an ambitious project I’m very excited about. Via satellite, we are able to bring live concerts with Gustavo Dudamel and the philharmonic to more than 450 movie theaters across the United States and Canada. We’ve had a tremendously positive response from people who have attended thus far. Our goals are to give more people access to Gustavo and the LA Phil, and to raise awareness for classical music, so that people are reminded that concerts like these are happening all the time in their own community. My role as project lead involves planning and implementing the events, including the partnership with our distributor, working with many departments and senior staff at the LA Phil, and co-producing the simulcasts.

What’s the best seat in the house at the Walt Disney Concert Hall?
There are wonderful seats, known as our orchestra view seats, right behind the orchestra. They are bench seats with padding, and you can see the conductor’s face. It’s as if you are sitting in the orchestra.

Picture this: You’re stuck alone on an island with only one CD to listen to. What music can’t you live without?
On one CD, I would put Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians.” I’d add some rock, with a good deal of Radiohead, and from the classical genre, I’d want Beethoven’s symphonies. That would give me enough to listen endlessly to the same CD.