Kassner, Eli

Eli Kassner. Teacher, guitarist, b Vienna 27 May 1924, naturalized Canadian 1956. After studies in Vienna and Palestine he moved to Canada in 1951. He studied with Segovia in Spain in 1959 and in Winston-Salem, Mass, in 1966. He performed until 1967, playing on Toronto radio and TV, and in theatrical productions at the Stratford Festival in 1961 and 1962. He also accompanied the singers Malka and Joso on three LPs for Capitol Records. He was a co-founder in 1956 and president 1960-6 of the Guitar Society of Toronto, and was artistic director of five of its triennial festivals 1975-87. He began teaching at the RCMT and the University of Toronto in 1959. In 1967, when he established the Eli Kassner Guitar Academy, he resigned from the RCMT but continued to teach at the University of Toronto, where he established the University of Toronto Guitar Ensemble in 1978. This 22-member group performed in Cuba in 1982, in Martinique in 1987 and in Puerto Rico in 1989. Twelve of its graduates formed the Guitar Ensemble of Canada, which Kassner directs. He also taught 1974-6 at the École normale de musique in Montreal, and 1976-8 at Queen's University. His pupils have included Robert Bauer, Liona Boyd, Lynne Gangbar, Davis Joachim, Norbert Kraft, Gordon O'Brien, the Wilson-McAllister duo, and the jazz guitarists Andy Krehm, Carlos Lopes and Rob Piltch. The Guitar Society and many of his pupils paid tribute to Kassner at a Toronto concert on his 65th birthday. Carl Morey said of him that he 'virtually single-handedly created serious guitar studies in Toronto, if not in Canada' (Guitar Canada, Spring 1989).

Dividing his time beginning in the 1970s between music and microphotography, Kassner was a photographer and composer and performer of guitar music for the CBC TV series 'The Nature of Things,' winning the 1975 Bell-Northern Prize and the Monaco Award ($2,000) for the film The First Inch.