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Our Founder

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Vahe Khochayan


Adapted from the Nevada Musicians Hall of fame profile


Born to Armenian parents and raised in Tehran, Iran. Vahe often told of a childhood without things like electricity, ballpoint pens, and chocolate (something he first tasted at age nine when a US soldier tossed him a Mars Bar during WWII).


Even at an early age, he showed great talent and love for music. In a time and place before Xerox machines, he once hand copied a piece of music note for note in order to be able to practice it. With his exquisite penmanship he would proudly show this perfect facsimile to friends and have to convince them that it was not a commercially published work. Anyone who received a Christmas card from Vahe can attest to his calligraphic prowess, and never threw away these works of art when the rest of the season’s greetings were tossed.


After high school Vahe moved to Italy to continue his musical studies at the Santa Cecilia Academy in Rome. In addition to solidifying a formidable violin technique, he earned the highest score on the solfeggio (do, re, mi, fa…) final exam in the institution’s 350-year history. After graduation he joined a dazzling Italian chamber orchestra as violinist, the Societa Corelli. With this group, Vahe toured internationally and recorded.


In addition to his violin career, Vahe was establishing himself as a first-rate conductor. Among many experiences, he conducted the National Iranian Radio and Television Chamber Orchestra, and led concerts at the Bath Festival with Sir Yehudi Menuhin as violin soloist. It was after a San Francisco performance with Societa Corelli that Vahe first came to Reno, to visit his brother, a longtime resident.


Reno’s small town feel with its 24-hour lifestyle suited him perfectly, and when the time was right, he decided to make The Biggest Little City his home. In those days local casinos offered full-time employment to musicians, and he quickly became a leader in the area’s showrooms.

It was with a group of fellow string players that Vahe co-founded the Reno Chamber Orchestra in 1974, and served as its music director and conductor for nearly 30 years. Vahe’s complete and tireless devotion is why the RCO exists today.

Vahe Khochayan served as the Reno Chamber Orchestra's Music Director from 1974 until 2003. He passed away in 2015. We celebrate his memory, and honor him with our Young Artist Concerto Competition.

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