It is with heavy hearts that The Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music mourns the passing of Dr. Lily Afshar, a true legend in the world of classical guitar. Her 34-year tenure in the School of Music has left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of our entire music community.
“Lily’s virtuosity on the classical guitar was not only internationally renowned but also an inspiration to all who had the privilege of knowing her,” said Dr. Kevin Sanders, director of the Scheidt School of Music. “Her music will continue to resonate in our halls, and her legacy will live on through the countless lives she touched with her artistry and wisdom.”
A trailblazing Iranian guitarist, Afshar is the first woman in the world to receive a Doctorate of Music in classical guitar. She received that degree from Florida State University, a Master of Music from the New England Conservatory, and a Bachelor of Music from the Boston Conservatory. She also received three Diplomas of Merit from the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy.
She joined the faculty of the University of Memphis in 1989, where she was named head of the classical guitar program. Her dedication to teaching, research and service earned her the prestigious 2000 Board of Visitors Eminent Faculty Award. She is the only School of Music faculty member to receive this honor, which is bestowed upon one University faculty member, as well as the University of Memphis 2008 Distinguished Teaching Award.
Recognized as a globally treasured musician, Afshar was chosen as “Artistic Ambassador” for the United States Information Agency to Africa. As a recipient of numerous state, national, and international honors, she has toured and performed new works in North, Central and South America, Denmark, Poland, England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Iran, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and Africa. She won the 2011 Distinguished Alumni Award from Boston Conservatory, the 2000 Orville H. Gibson Award for Best Female Classical Guitarist, and the National Endowment recipient for the Arts Recording Award. In addition, she won the Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Annual “Premier Guitarist” awards from the Memphis Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc.
Acclaimed as “one of the world’s foremost classical guitarists” according to Public Radio International, she has taught master classes and performed concerts worldwide in prestigious venues such as Wigmore Hall in London, the Salle Cortot in Paris, the Jerash Festival of Arts in Amman, Jordan, the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, and the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson, Wyoming.
Afshar’s articles on Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Goya are published multi-lingually. She is the author of “Five Popular Persian Ballads” and has recorded seven CDs. They are “24 Caprichos de Goya, OP. 195” “A Jug of Wine and Thou,” “Possession,,” “Hemispheres,” which was number seven on Billboard’s Classical Album Chart, “One Thousand and One Nights,” her first chamber music CD, “Musica da Camera,” and her most recent CD “Bach on Fire.” Her book “Essential Bach Arranged for the Guitar” and her DVD “Virtuoso Guitar” were published by Mel Bay. She released four volumes of instructional DVDs: “Classical Guitar Secrets” and “Classical Guitar Collection” with GuitarControl.
In addition to her contributions to classical guitar, the School of Music has been fortunate to have benefitted from such a talented faculty member committed to its driven students and burgeoning music opportunities. For the past nine years, she has organized and hosted the Annual Memphis International Guitar Festival, which celebrates the classical guitar and features masterclasses, a festival competition and a weekend full of delightful concerts. Funded by Augustine Strings grants awarded to Afshar, the annual festival treated the community to the beauty of the classical guitar and world-class talent while encouraging the next generation of musicians.
Afshar retired after 34 years at the UofM, where her contributions to her field, students and our institution will leave a legacy that will forever be a part of our institution.
Dr. Afshar was laid to rest in her beloved home of Iran in Tonekabon, in the northern Iranian province of Mazandaran.