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James Samuel “Sam” Pilafian (Beta Omicron) 1949-2019

Sam Pilafian, honorary member of the Beta Omicron chapter at Arizona State University passed away on April 4, 2019.  Perhaps best known as a founding member of the internationally renowned Empire Brass Quintet, Sam 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.  As a solo jazz artist, Sam recorded fifteen CDs.  He was also a member of the large brass ensemble Summit Brass.  As an arranger, composer and recording producer, Sam produced and wrote for Joseph Alessi (New York Philharmonic), the Boston Brass, the Brass Band of Battle Creek, the Academy (of Drum Corp International), and the United States Air Force Band. Sam is the coauthor with Patrick Sheridan of the bestselling pedagogy texts and DVD’s “Breathing Gym” and “Brass Gym”.

In 1967, Sam won the concerto competition at the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan, becoming only the second tubist in over fifty years to do so.  He subsequently won fellowships at Dartmouth College and the Tanglewood Music Center.  While at Tanglewood he was invited by Leonard Bernstein to perform on-stage in the world premiere of Bernstein’s MASS, which opened the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  Most recently, he served as Professor of Music at Arizona State University, having previously served for twenty years on the faculties of Boston University and their summer Tanglewood Institute.  Sam has won the Walter Naumberg Chamber Music Award, the Harvard Music Association Prize, the University of Miami’s Distinguished Alumni Award, the Brevard Music Center Distinguished Alumni Award, the Robert Trotter Annual Visiting Professorship at the University of Oregon, the annual Outstanding Teacher Award for the College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University, a 2006 Spirit of Disney Award for creativity and design in a Drum Corps International Gold Medal winning performance, and a 2009 Emmy Award for best instructional/educational video from the National Association of Television Arts and Sciences. Sam also previously served as president and chairman of the board of the International Tuba Euphonium Association.

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