Sam Pi­lafian, tuba mae­stro

The Buffalo News - - OBITUARIES -

Oct. 25, 1949 – April 5, 2019

Sam Pi­lafian, a vir­tu­oso tuba player who per­formed an eclec­tic mix of clas­si­cal, jazz, pop and rock mu­sic, died April 5 at his home in Tempe, Ari­zona. He was 69.

His wife, Diann Pi­lafian, said the cause was colon can­cer.

As a busy soloist, a found­ing mem­ber of the Em­pire Brass quin­tet and part­ner to acous­tic gui­tarist Frank Vig­nola in jazz group Trav­elin’ Light, Pi­lafian ex­panded the tuba’s pos­si­bil­i­ties.

James Sa­muel Pi­lafian was born Oct. 25, 1949, in Mi­ami. His fa­ther, James, was a lawyer, and his mother, Rosa, was a paralegal.

Sam switched from the ac­cor­dion to the tuba at age 11 and within a few years had joined the mu­si­cians union and was play­ing in ho­tel or­ches­tras that backed head­lin­ers like Frank Si­na­tra and Liza Min­nelli.

He had a sum­mer fel­low­ship at the Tan­gle­wood Mu­sic Cen­ter in Mas­sachusetts where Leonard Bern­stein heard him play and en­listed him in the orches­tra for the pre­miere of the Kennedy Cen­ter in Wash­ing­ton in 1971.

In ad­di­tion to his wife, Pi­lafian is sur­vived by sons Alexan­der Sarkis Pi­lafian and Zev Levin-Pi­lafian, and his sis­ters, Marni Pi­lafian and Nerisa Gay Pi­lafian.

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