How did you first hear about the Suzuki Method?
My first awareness of it was on holiday in Cork, Ireland.
Mr Bernard Curtis, Director of the Cork School of Music and my piano teacher always came to meet me when I went home and in 1974/5, he had news to share about this extraordinary way of teaching. He had been to London, where a Suzuki violin teaching programme had started and he was most impressed.
At that time he told me that there was also a piano programme using the method, but neither he nor I felt that this could work! How could one “teach”, two hands by ear? It was obvious that it could work on a melodic instrument, where there is a tune, which can be picked up by ear, but how to “pick up” the accompaniment – not to mention Bach left hands…
So what led you to getting involved?
In 1979, my son Seamus was born and his older brother, Bill, had remembered hearing Mr Curtis talk about Dr Suzuki’s ideas that from birth the baby could start listening to specific kinds of music – for example, Vivaldi’s Seasons was mentioned.
I had no notion then of what would follow. I simply did what Bill asked and bought an LP of The Seasons which Bill taped so that he could put the music on in our little kitchen while Seamus was being fed – that was one of the key times that Dr Suzuki suggested that the music might be used. For quite a while, Bill undertook everything – he was so sure that he wanted his baby brother to have this musical experience. I had not read anything at this time and only vaguely remembered the bit about babies in the discussion all those years before in Cork.
However, I was aware that a Suzuki programme had started in the schools in Cork, thanks to the determination of Mr Curtis. Two sisters, a violinist and a cellist – Denise and Renee Lane were given a scholarship to go to United States and learn about the method.
Trudy Byron-Fahy, a young American violinist, who had studied with Professor John Kendal (one of the most esteemed Americans who had gone to Japan to study with Dr Suzuki) came to Cork to help develop the programme. Trudy is still in Cork and is Director of the Suzuki Violin teacher-training programme.
In 1980, Dr.Suzuki came to Wembley and there was a conference, with teachers and children from many places. We had heard about this. As a family, we were short of money and decided that we could not afford a holiday that year, but we decided that each member of the family could have a special treat in London.
My daughter chose to go to Covent Garden to see the Irish Ballet Company’s version of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World, with music by Anne’s favourite group, The Chieftains (Anne was a very keen tin whistle player!). My husband, Maurice, chose Death of a Salesman, in the West End, I chose The Story of Fats Waller, a musical in the West End and Bill’s choice was to take his six month-old brother to Wembley and to follow Dr. Suzuki all day!!!!
The cost was £7.50 and as I was still breastfeeding, I went as well – the experience changed my life.