Murray S. Savar
1955 - 2023

Teacher, Choral Director, Friend

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.


Through the Years


Murrray S. Savar is born.


Murray Savar is hired by then Assistant Headmistress Adele Sands as a Middle School music teacher.


Mr. Savar directs the Middle School select choir, The Minstrels (alumnae will recall the introduction of the Monotone Angel) during the 1970s - 80s.


Mr. Savar teaching with the Kodály method. Alumnae from this era remember C-O-F-F-E-E, Pass the Shoe, and a song about a sailor.


Mr. Savar takes over direction of the Bel Cantos. "His classroom was a place to learn, a place to be silly, a place to feel safe making a mistake, a place to give that solo a try.” - Tory Wolcott Green ’02


Mr. Savar composes a musical history of Agnes Irwin for the School’s 125th celebration starring the Class of 2003.


A brilliant composer and arranger, Mr. Savar wrote countless plays and musicals for the entire Lower School. Selections include the first grade play Stardust and fourth grade musical the Miserable Muse.


Mr. Savar taught the joy of singing joy of singing through a vast repertoire of songs, games, and rhymes. Generations of students are connected by favorites such as Oh the Fox and Hare and the Badger and the Bear and Pizza Pizza.


The Kindergarten Invention Convention was just one of the places Mr. Savar incorporated music into his colleagues' design thinking projects.

December, 1980s

Favorites of the Winter Concert include Bring Me a Rose, Let There be Peace on Earth, and the traditional finale, 3 O’clock Rehearsal.

December, 2022

The maestro Mr. Savar continued to make Winter Concert magic.

Middle & Upper School Concerts

"Mr. Savar made music fun! He made us laugh! He made us practice, and practice, and practice. And he made us proud - of our music and of each other." - Laurie Hugill Clark '03


For decades, Lower School has performed Spring Sing. Song favorites include Body Electric, Child of Tomorrow, Homeward Bound (In the quiet misty morning), and Corner of the Sky (everything has its season).

Little Voices

Generations of Agnes Irwin girls remember being invited to sing solos in front of the whole school and at concerts. Mr. Savar showed everyone, no matter how small, had a voice.


The Bel Cantos visit St. Paul's Chapel in Lower Manhattan to sing for relief workers.


Graduating Bel Cantos perform as a small group for the first time in what has become a beloved AIS tradition.


Murray creates the Agnes Irwin City Tour in an effort to share the history and legacy of Agnes Irwin. Pictured is the 2019 tour on the steps of Delancey Place, the School's third location.


Mr. Savar leads the Bel Cantos in singing the National Anthem at the Phillies game.


The Bel Cantos sing at the Kimmel Center. Mr. Savar memorably chimes in on the ending of the Rainbow Connection.


Mr. Savar adopts his signature look of shaved head and bow ties after starring in the Middle School production of Annie Jr.


Mr. Savar's ability to capture the attention, affection, and interest of every Lower School girl is legendary. Many will remember his trademark Halloween costume and turkey hat!


Murray, his mother Minna Savar, and Audrey Silverman Perkins '80 at the retirement party for long-tenured colleagues.


Mr. Savar conducting the Bel Cantos on the stage of the Academy of Music at the Orpheus Club Concert.


Murray Savar is announced Chair of the Visual and Performing Arts Department the same year the Lower School circle bears his name.


With the introduction of the PreK/K plaid tunic to match the Upper School kilt, Mr. Savar adopts new concert attire.


World premiere of Mr. Savar's Agnes Irwin the Musical during Founder’s Weekend.


The longest tenured faculty member at the Agnes Irwin School, Mr. Savar is pictured with other esteemed colleagues.


Murray Savar representing the faculty in speaking at the Convocation for Sally Keidel.


Murray with Head of School Sally Keidel and Lower School teacher Melanie Slezak.


Mr. Savar embraced new technology during the pandemic by hosting popular Facebook Live concerts in the evenings for AIS families, alumnae, and faculty.


As the recipient of the Agnes & Sophy Dallas Irwin Fund Award Murray said, "I spent three glorious weeks in Europe visiting Dublin, Munich, Berlin, Budapest, and Vienna."


The Class of 2021 Piano Lab and Naya Summy Composition Room opens.


Murray with Lower School science teacher and friend Julie Haines.

Faculty Friendships

"One of the gifts we will cherish the most, are the genuine and mutual friendships that we, his colleagues, were so fortunate to share with him.”- Melanie Slezak, Interim Lower School Director


The entire AIS Community gathers to celebrate Mr. Murray S. Savar

The Murray S. Savar Fund

Established in memory of Murray S. Savar, this fund seeks to honor a faculty member who best embodies Murray's commitment to bringing connection, positivity and scholarly or artistic excellence in their role as educator. 

 With his truly unique brand of warmth, intuition and creative spirit, Murray brought a love for and knowledge of music and performance, encouraging all to embrace life with authenticity, self-belief and passion. His reach was generational as he connected students, parents and alumnae with the joys of community at The Agnes Irwin School.

Donate To The Murray S. Savar Fund