Violin professor Movses Pogossian lives for the moments of silence at the end of a concert, the collective hush of thousands of people holding their breaths at the final bow of his string.
But when the curtain closes, he returns to his studio and transforms from performer to professor.
An internationally renowned violinist, Pogossian will perform with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra on Sunday at Royce Hall. For the upcoming concert, Pogossian is preparing to perform Violin Concerto No. 2, “Four Serious Songs,” by Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian. Pogossian said Sunday will be his first time performing a solo at Royce Hall for his UCLA students and colleagues.
Pogossian said it has been a harmonious journey balancing both his teaching and continued career as a professional violinist performer. He teaches private violin lessons during the week, leaving two or three days to perform professionally. Teaching and performing enforce one another, he said.
“Every time I perform, I learn something valuable and pass it on to my students, so it’s a win-win situation,” Pogossian said, “I become a better teacher after I perform.”
To prepare for the performance at Royce Hall, Pogossian said he rehearses with the same level of discipline and rigor he expects of his students. He practices for hours alone at his home studio, learning and memorizing the notes and finding the emotion in the music, he said.
“As an artist, understanding the emotional theme, the final message of the composer, and what I want to leave the listener with is the most important,” Pogossian said.
In teaching, Pogossian loves seeing students happy with the results of their labor.
Sarah Worden, one of Pogossian’s violin students at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, said she sees her music with entirely new eyes with her professor’s guidance. Pogossian helps her catch the technical errors she misses when she is practicing alone, carefully tuning her in to improving her intonation, timbre and interpretation.
“He focuses a lot on musicality – where the phrases are going, how to express the emotions of certain lines, and how to best use technique to bring out the best possible sound of the instrument,” said the third-year physics and music performance student.
Besides his emphasis on technical skill and musicality, Worden admires the way Pogossian personalizes lessons for each of his students, bringing in real-world examples like food, sports and literature analogies to guide his pupils and help clarify his instruction.
“With me, it’s a lot of science-related and outdoorsy metaphors because that’s what I’m interested in outside of music,” Worden said.
Pogossian relates music techniques to soccer skills and physics in Worden’s lessons, two of her own lifelong passions, she said. Pogossian offered her a comparison between bowing in violin performance and kicking in soccer: Forceful strikes against violin strings are like kicks in soccer, demanding extra power from the whole body. However, violin pizzacato – a type of plucking technique – is more akin to passing in soccer, requiring precision and timing.
Pogossian tries to convey to his students that the entire body – including even the heel of the foot, small of the back and tip of the finger – have to be involved in every musical gesture for a successful musical performance, he said.
Pogossian’s playing informs communities beyond UCLA, said Scott Harrison, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Executive Director. Pogossian spends hours in local community outreach programs at the Glendale Youth Orchestra and Glendale Memorial Hospital, performing mini-concerts and educational music activities for children.
“Pogossian has a great spirit of sharing, teaching and generosity,” Harrison said.
Whether through teaching or performing, Pogossian said his goal is to spread a love of music among his students and community.
“Hopefully my students will be more inspired from my performance at Royce Hall and be a nice kick-start for the new students, welcoming a new school year,” Pogossian said.