Michael Hovnanian grew up in the Seattle, Washington, area and began playing the bass in the public schools. His primary private teachers were James Harnett and Ronald Simon of the Seattle Symphony. An early interest in solo playing led to performances with the Seattle Symphony, the Northwest Chamber Orchestra and the University of Washington Symphony. He attended the University of Washington and received a bachelor of fine arts degree from the California Institute of the Arts, where he studied with Frederick Tinsley of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In 1986, he joined the Victoria Symphony as principal bass, and became a member of the bass section of the San Antonio Symphony in 1988. Since 1989, he has been a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
In addition to being a member of the Chicago Symphony, Hovnanian is active performing solo and chamber music in the Chicago area. He has performed on the CSO Chamber Music series at Orchestra Hall and at the Art Institute of Chicago and with Chicago Pro Musica and the Winter Chamber Music Festival of Northwestern University.
In addition to performing, Michael Hovnanian currently is president of Discordia Music, Inc., a publishing company specializing in new and arranged works for double bass. He also is cofounder of the International Bottesini Society, an organization dedicated to promoting the legacy of that composer.