Celebrating the Life And Music Of Former Professor Sam Pilafian

The 1996 Distinguished Alumnus and Former Professor of Professional Practice, Tuba Instructor, and Faculty Mentor to the Stamps Brass Quintet, passed away Friday, April 6th, 2019.
Celebrating the Life And Music Of Former Professor Sam Pilafian

We are saddened to report the passing of a beloved member of the Frost School family. Sam Pilafian, 1996 Distinguished Alumnus, B.M. ’72 was Professor of Professional Practice as tuba instructor and faculty mentor to the Stamps Brass Quintet from August 2012 to August 2016. He passed away Friday, April 6th, 2019 at the age of 69.

An internationally renowned tuba virtuoso, Sam was perhaps best-known as a founding member of the Empire Brass Quintet (1971-1963).  He also recorded and performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Lionel Hampton, and Pink Floyd among others.
In addition to receiving the Frost School’s Distinguished Alumnus Award, he was the recipient of an Emmy for Excellence in Instructional Video Production, the Walt Disney Award, The Walter Naumberg Chamber Music Award, the Harvard Music Association Prize Music Center Distinguished Alumni Award, The Robert Trotter Visiting Professorship at the University of Oregon and the annual Outstanding Teacher Award from Arizona State University.
An outpouring of tributes from fans and students alike are being posted in remembrance of the music icon.  In sharing his thoughts Dean Shelton G. Berg stated: “Sam Pilafian was like no one I ever met.  No one was superior to him as a musical artist, but he didn’t stop there. Sam could improvise and arrange at a high level across an array of styles and genres. He was an innovator, entrepreneur, impresario, and record producer.  Sam was irrepressible, and he made everything around him better.  I loved him, and I’m very fortunate to have been his colleague and collaborator.”
In remembering Sam Dr. Aaron Tindall, Frost’s Associate Professor of Tuba and Euphonium said: “I owe him a great deal for all of the kindness he continually showed me while I was only but a student, and later on up through the ranks. He was always kind, encouraging, and extremely supportive whenever our paths crossed. I still have HUGE shoes to fill here being at the “U” after him.  His musical family at the Frost School of Music/UMiami is forever grateful for the time and energy he devoted here. Simply put, ALL who knew Sam were better for it.”
In a touching tribute from former Frost student Dennis Lejardi, B.M. ‘17:  “Because of Sam, I am able to have a future in what I most love.  I will forever strive to teach others all that I can through kindness and joy so that they too can enjoy the blessings that he brought to me.”  
An educator for 44 years, in addition to serving on the faculty of FSOM, he was faculty mentor to the Stamps Brass Quintet, and served on the faculties of Boston University the Tanglewood Institute, Berklee College of Music and was Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University.  Sam was the consultant to the Royal Academy of Music in London and, most recently an honorary board of director for the International Tuba Euphonium Association where he recently received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Sam is survived by his wife Diann Jezurski Pilafian, son Alexander Sarkis Pilafian, sisters Marni Pilafian and Nerisa Gay Pilafian, niece Alexandra Pilafian Lee, many cousins and special friends Joyce Levin and Amy Neuenshwander and their son Zev.


In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the John F. Kennedy Elementary School Music program. 
In memory of Sam Pilafian: 
6825 S. 10th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85042