One of Canada’s most important and influential classical guitar players and teachers classical guitarists, Eli Kassner (b.1924), has been awarded that country’s highest civilian honor, the Order of Canada, which “recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to community, and service to the nation.”
According to a release by the Guitar Society of Toronto, “Eli’s contributions to music in Canada have been immense. When he arrived in Canada in 1951, classical guitar had virtually no presence. Without Eli’s inspiration and energy, that still might be the case today. Thanks to Eli, the Guitar Society of Toronto [which he founded in 1956] is one of North America’s oldest and most active. Classical guitar studies are thriving at the University of Toronto—one of the first universities in North America to treat guitar as a ‘serious’ classical instrument. Multiple generations of guitar students have been inspired to launch careers as artists, composers and teachers. Eli’s International Guitar Festivals and Competitions in the 1970s and ’80s have laid the foundation for international guitar festivals worldwide. There is much more, but this gives you some idea of Eli’s extraordinary achievements.
“As Eli is unable to travel to Ottawa for the investiture, the award ceremony will be held for Eli personally at the Baycrest Centre [in Toronto], where he is now residing.”
A few other details of Kassner’s biography are also worth noting: At the outbreak of World War II, he fled his native Austria to work on a kibbutz in Palestine. After moving to Toronto in ’51, he became a guitar teacher there, and by the early ’60s—after he’d studied with Andrés Segovia in Spain for a period—he started teaching at the University of Toronto and at the Toronto Royal Conservatory of Music. Later, he founded the Eli Kassner Guitar Academy in Toronto. Besides founding the Guitar Society of Toronto and forming and directing the University of Toronto Guitar Ensemble, Kassner has also encouraged a number of Canadian composers to pen works for the guitar. In short, it’s quite a remarkable legacy! His autobiography, Allegro Vivace con Brio: The Life of Eli Kassner, was published recently.