Azerbaijan International

Spring 2002 (10.1)
Page 16

Zulfugar Baghirov

Music student Zulfugar Baghirov recently received the prestigious Joseph E. Viola Scholarship from the Berklee College of Music in Boston. This honor was bestowed on him at the school's 2002 Spring Awards Ceremony, held on March 15, 2002.

Left: Zulfugar Baghirov

The Joseph Viola Award is given biannually to a woodwind student at the school who shows outstanding musical potential. The winner is chosen by the Woodwind Faculty, with particular consideration of each student's academic standing and the quality and consistency of their contributions to the division.

"Joseph Viola was such a great jazz educator, a real master of the saxophone," Zulfugar says. "I feel very honored to be the one to receive this award this year."

Zulfugar, 28, is from Baku. He started learning music at age six, playing the violin for five years before switching to the clarinet. Today he is in his fourth semester as a music performance major at Berklee. He has been a scholarship student there since his first semester.

"I graduated from a classical music conservatory," Zulfugar says, "but I had always been interested in jazz as well. At one point, I realized that I would need a professional education to take it further. Now I play mostly free jazz. My first private teacher for jazz was well-known saxophonist Billy Pierce, and now I am studying with the great clarinet player Harry Skoler." Zulfugar's principal instrument is the clarinet, but he plays the saxophone as well.

Zulfugar himself comes from a long line of Azerbaijani musicians. Perhaps the most prominent was his grandfather on his mother's side, composer Gara Garayev (1918-1982). Zulfugar's mother, Zuleyha, is a pianist who teaches at a conservatory in Istanbul. Her older brother is composer and music professor Feraj Garayev (1943- ). Zulfugar's father, Elshad Baghirov (1947- ), is currently the conductor of the Istanbul State Opera and Ballet Orchestra. His father was musicologist Zakir Baghirov (1916-1996), a professor at the Azerbaijan Music Conservatory. When asked to describe what it feels like to grow up in such a musical family, Zulfugar responds, "I think it's a great opportunity. I feel proud to come from such a famous family. I'm trying my best to live up to their legacy."

To listen to some of Zulfugar's recordings, visit and click on "Music Section". To contact Zulfugar, e-mail him at:

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