Ostad Morteza Varzi
30 December 1922 – 3 January 2004
Ostad (master) Morteza Varzi was born in Tehran, Iran on 30 December 1922.
He started his music lessons on the violin at age 15 with the Ney-Davoud brothers, two of the greatest Persian instrumentalists of the twentieth century. After his father advised him to play music on a traditional Persian instrument, he began studying setâr with master Nasratollah Zarrin Panjeh, and kemence with master Ali-Asghar Bahari.
After finishing college with a degree in economics, Mr. Varzi was employed by the Iranian government, traveling throughout the world, conducting official business in Japan, the Philippines, India, China, the UK, and the United States. During his official duties, he represented the Iranian government at forums such as the CENTO Symposium on Decentralization of Government.
He undertook post-graduate studies in Finance and Personnel Management in the United States, and in Public Administration in the UK.
Later, after attaining high office at the Iranian State Railroad and at the Iranian Ministry of the Interior (where his posts included Governor of the Province of Sari, Director of Planning and Studies, Director General of Plans and Studies, Director General of Organization and Method, Consultant to the Minister of the Interior, and Executive Director of the Iran Municipal Association), he spent his free time collecting Iranian musical recordings, and researching Persian classical and folkloric music.
In 1979, Mr. Varzi took up residence in the United States, promoting Persian music and culture, and instructing both Iranians and Americans in the Persian classical musical repertoire. To this end, he co-founded (with Robyn Friend and Neil Siegel) the non-profit Institute of Persian Performing Arts in 1985. He was also the founder of the Bâhâri (with Peggy Caton, Robyn Friend, Massoud Modirian, and Neil Siegel) and Oshâgh (with Kazem Alemi, Mr. Tehrani, and Reza Torshizi) musical ensembles. In 1986, he was recognized by the United States National Endowment for the Arts as a master teacher and performer.
He had hundreds of students – learning kemenche, setâr, târ, radif (Persian repertoire), Persian singing, Persian classical poetry – who came to study with him from all over the world. He also provided many opportunities for his students to meet and work with other masters of Persian music.
Ostad Varzi died in Tehran, Iran, on 3 January 2004 (13th of Dey Maahe 1382), shortly after his 81st birthday.