Renowned Iranian Guitarist, Lily Afshar (1960-2023)
Lily Afshar, the award-winning Iranian classical guitarist, passed away on Tuesday, October 24 after a long illness. “Pacific Symphony audiences remember with great fondness her wonderful performance of Vivaldi’s Guitar Concerto in D Major with the orchestra at the 2022 Nowruz concert,” commented Anoosheh Oskouian, Symphony board member and member of Farhang Foundation’s board of trustees. Oskouian has been instrumental in highlighting Nowruz for Southern California audiences and under her guidance, the Symphony has held the goal of connecting music of East and West together to mark this most ancient celebration among Iranians.
Acclaimed as “one of the world’s foremost classical guitarists” according to Public Radio International, Lily Afshar was a virtuosa who brought passion to her performance. Her unique life story found expression in her art. The Washington Post described her onstage performance as “remarkable, impeccable.” She was the only classical guitarist in the world who blended excellent formal training in the United States and Europe with the rich cultural heritage of Persia to bring audiences an extraordinary musical experience.
Born in 1960, Lily Afshar grew up in Tehran, although her family roots are in Iran’s northeastern Azerbaijan province—a region famed for local string instruments like the tar and the saz. At age 10 she became interested in the guitar after visiting a cousin who played the instrument. He father bought her a guitar, and she soon began lessons. Afshar moved to the U.S. in the late 1970s and earned a bachelor’s degree in music at the Boston Conservatory. She went on to pursue a Master of Music degree at the New England Conservatory in Boston and a doctorate at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
Lily Afshar was one of 12 international guitarists chosen to play for Andres Segovia’s advanced master classes at the University of Southern California. After these classes finished, Maestro Segovia predicted in an interview on NBC evening news that Afshar would become a famous musician one day.
Afshar’s interest in contemporary music led her to be one of the first performers of the works of Reza Valli, Gary Eyster, Gerard Rozhed, Loris Chobanian, Aren Melens, Kamran Injeh, Barbara Kolb, Marilyn Ziffrin, and Salvador Brutons, among others. She has held many concerts in Iran, America, England, Ireland, Canada, France, Denmark, Italy, Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and South America, as well as in London’s Wigmore Hall, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Center, Banff School of Visual Arts, Menton Music Festival (on the French Riviera), and the American Academy in Rome.
“Lily Afshar’s passing leaves a void in the world of music that can never truly be filled. It was an incredible pleasure to welcome her as one of the headliners of the 2022 Nowruz Concert by the Pacific Symphony, where her artistry and passion illuminated the stage and warmed the hearts of all who were fortunate to witness her performance,” said Alireza Ardekani, Executive Director of Farhang Foundation. “Her music will forever be a cherished memory, a testament to her unparalleled talent and the enduring power of her art.”
Lily Afshar is being buried in northern Iran, and her artistry will be greatly missed.