Murray S. Savar
1955 - 2023
Celebration of Life Event
Murray Savar, the longest-tenured faculty member in Agnes Irwin School history, passed away on October 30, 2023. In his incredible 47 years at the school, Murray taught music in all three divisions, directed choral ensembles, and served as the Chair of the Visual and Performing Arts Department, sharing his love of music, of learning, and of life with generations of Agnes Irwin students. In September, as news of Mr. Savar’s declining health was shared with the community, there was an unprecedented outpouring of emotion and gratitude from students, teachers, alumnae, parents, and staff. Murray’s cousin Shelley Sokol Daniels, who was at his side these last months, described how comforted and overwhelmed he was by the volume and depth of the messages he received. She shared, “Murray felt truly blessed to have devoted so much of his life to such an extraordinary community of people — students, families, colleagues, alums, and friends. He said that AIS has been the wind beneath his wings.”
A lifelong Philadelphian, Murray was a graduate of Central High School and Temple University College of Music. Murray arrived at Agnes Irwin as a new college graduate. Almost five decades later, he called his work here the most rewarding career he could have asked for.
Murray was an expert in the Kodály method, applying a sequential, child-development approach similar to language development. He emphasized ear training, pitch, and the joy of singing through a vast repertoire of songs, games, and rhymes. Generations of students are connected through stories of Petunia and Mr. Savar’s songs. From those fun-filled music classes emerged girls who not only could harmonize and sing on pitch but had stage presence, confidence, and a voice.
Melanie Slezak, Interim Lower School Director, said Murray was one of the most magical teachers she has ever known. Head of School Sally Keidel recalls the brilliance of his teaching. She said, “Murray was a gifted educator. His classroom was a great example of the kind of environment Agnes Irwin strives to be – a place where girls are known, understood, and challenged. He filled every space he entered, with music, laughter, and joy.”
Murray celebrated the differences in people, in culture, and religion, spreading kindness through song. Alumnae Association President Andi Lucas Schmerin ’07 shared, “I learned some of the most important lessons from Mr. Savar in Middle School, where he graciously opened up his personal life to teach us about the differences in other people, and the importance of being kind. He brought people together over music, with exactly the right tune to fit the mood.” Murray inspired students with his love of travel and language, and when they were making music and singing in German, Italian, and Hungarian, they were becoming citizens of the world.
The ultimate Agnes Irwin ambassador, Mr. Savar served as its connection for so many. His love of the school was legendary. His pride in his students was palpable — that pride, that belief, was what inspired and challenged them. Audrey Silverman Perkins ’80 P’17 said, “As much as the Irwin’s community was inspired and delighted by Murray’s talents and natural magnetism, it was indeed, a relationship of mutual joy. Murray said that he found teaching one generation of girls and then teaching their daughters the most gratifying of any job he could have imagined. He loved the continuity of relationships, and with pride and enthusiasm, he recounted his vast catalog of school memories with amazed returning alumnae.”
In these past few weeks, as hundreds wrote to thank Mr. Savar for the tremendous impact he had on their lives, the Alumnae Association named him as an Honorary Alumnus. The Board of Trustees, along with the school, proclaimed the permanent naming of the Lower School entrance drive, the Murray Savar Circle. Julie Haines, Lower School Dean, shared, “Rarely in life will you find an educator, or any person, who brings such joy and love to every person he meets. Such a person was Murray Savar. The Agnes Irwin community has been blessed that he shared his life and his talents with all of our girls, their families, and his colleagues. Murray used his extraordinary musical gifts and his masterful teaching skills to transform any venue into a magical concert with girls who he conducted to sing like angels and instilled the confidence to volunteer for solo parts. Murray made us laugh, he made us cry (tears of joy and pride), and he made us all feel uniquely loved and seen. His music and friendship enriched our souls and he brought out the best in all of us, because he was simply the best.”
The Agnes Irwin School is forever indebted to Murray’s dedication and legacy of song and friendship. We will miss his limitless love.