The TIGUrS Urban Garden's music series, Autumn Evenings, returned last Thursday for its third year. Soothing music and a cool afternoon breeze drew over 40 listeners to the outdoor concert.
The Urban Garden, located adjacent to Memorial Field, offers sustainable urban greenspaces, organic food, and now, live music. While the pandemic ended live performances for a time, Autumn Evenings is finally back, with a brand-new stage and outdoor seating.
Lily Afshar, world-renowned guitarist and professor of guitar at the University of Memphis, performed the garden's first show. "It's my favorite instrument," she said. "It's the only instrument I love, the classical guitar." Afshar first discovered the guitar at ten years old.
After receiving her bachelor's and master's degrees in music, she became the first woman in the world to earn a Doctorate of Music in classical guitar. She has performed across the globe on six continents and published seven albums.
Afshar performed a wide variety of technically challenging classical music, including the Spanish piece "Red Tower'' by Isaac Albeniz, Bach, and a self-composed piece entitled "Song From the Secret Garden." To hear some of Afshar's recordings or contact her about the U of M's guitar program, visit lilyafshar.com.
Art Johnson has served as the garden coordinator for over 12 years and prepared Thursday night's event. He said the idea for the concert series was a natural connection. "It's a garden. There's music. Why is there not music in the garden?"
Johnson said Afshar was one of the first to visit the garden all those years ago. "I'm so honored to be opening this series," Afshar said. "I love this garden. It's an oasis."
Just 10 dollars of each student's tuition goes toward maintaining the garden. Over 40 different types of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers are grown, and anyone is free to harvest fresh food like strawberries, okra, basil, and much more.
All that Johnson asks of visitors is to take a fair share. "Hopefully, you'll [harvest] responsibly. We can't force that."
The garden expects to host three more concerts this semester. Keith Paluso, a finalist on The Voice and lead singer for jazz-rock group Blood, Sweat & Tears, will perform next, followed by a string trio near the end of October.
Paluso performs on October 12 at 5:45 pm. Admission is free, and jackets, blankets, and picnic baskets are highly recommended for a relaxing evening of live music.
Anyone passionate about gardening and sustainable practices can volunteer at the Urban Garden. For more information, contact Art Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.