Memorial concert celebrates gifted alumna’s passion for music

Sunnuz Sarah Taheri
Sunnuz Sarah Taheri

An event celebrating the life and passion of a York University alumna will take place at Hugh’s Room in Toronto Nov. 26.­

Sunnuz Sarah Taheri (BA ’05) would have been 33 years old on Nov. 25, the day before the Celebrating Sunnuz event next Wednesday to raise fund for the Sunnuz Sarah Taheri Graduate Award in Fine Arts. Even though “Sunny” or “Sarah,” as her friends called her, was an English major at York, she was a talented musician who studied jazz vocal with Rita di Ghent at York and had hopes of studying opera at the Juilliard School in New York, where she had been living since 2008 and died suddenly last December.

“Sunnuz loved life and she absolutely loved New York City,” her mother Nazy Taheri says. “Every time she called, she said, ‘Mom, thank you for giving me the gift of life.’ I know she was in love with music. Music and art were her passion and she loved the philosophy that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.”

While Sunnuz moved to the Big Apple to intern for Nylon Magazine, she soon decided to follow her dream of studying music. She was working as a waitress to support herself and taking vocal lessons with a teacher from Juilliard.

“She was musical from when she was young. She started piano at the age of five and began singing in her teens. She liked all kinds of music, from Janis Joplin to Maria Callas,” Nazy says. “She used to be extremely shy in performance, but she wasn’t shy with me.”

The last time Nazy saw Sunnuz was not long before she died. The mother and daughter were in Chicago for a family wedding and in their hotel room, in the early morning, Sunnuz unexpectedly started singing opera.

“I told her it was too loud, but she said, ‘It’s music, let them all hear,’” Nazy says. “I loved her voice. She had a beautiful voice.”

To honour Sunnuz’s life, her family and friends have committed $100,000 for the Sunnuz Sarah Taheri Graduate Award in Fine Arts in her memory. The gift will be matched one to one by the Graduate Studies Awards Program to leverage greater support to help music and arts students realize their full potential.

“Sunnuz would be enlightened about this award,” Nazy says. “Aside from music and art, she loved helping people. She really had a social conscience and regularly helped homeless people or disadvantaged girls. She did it her way.”

Celebrating Sunnuz features dinner, live music, and a silent auction. For more information about the event, visit the Hugh’s Room website here. All proceeds will go toward the Sunnuz Sarah Taheri Graduate Award in Fine Arts. For more information For more information about the award, visit For the Sunnuz Taheri memorial site, visit