History of Suzuki in Ontario

The Suzuki method, first introduced by Suzuki to North America in 1964 at a Music Educators National Convention by Dr. Suzuki, saw its start in Ontario in 1967. To mark Canada’s centenary, the Women’s Committee of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra embarked on a project to offer Suzuki instruction to young children with teachers Akiko Takubo and Keiko Yamada, followed by Marta Hidy.

By 1980, this program was reorganized as the Hamilton Suzuki School of Music under the driving force of Margot Jewell. At about the same time, in 1966, project SUPER (Suzuki in Penfield-Eastman-Rochester) brought Dr. Suzuki to Eastman to train teachers, including many future leaders of the Suzuki movement in America, such as Sanford Reuning,. Another of the participants, Herman Dilmore, began Suzuki instruction at the University of Western Ontario in 1969. Dorothy Jones started as an accompanist and developed preparatory music classes here from 1972. About the same time, Jean Grieve in Oakville started teaching after being involved in the Hamilton Suzuki School of Music with her oldest children, and Jean and Bruce Johnston started teaching at Toronto Montessori Schools after being trained by Herman Dilmore. The Suzuki program in Guelph began as a subsidiary program of the Hamilton one, with Daphne Hughes and Hazel Comer being sponsored to receive training with William Starr.

In 1972, Daphne and Bill Hughes, Hazel Comer, and Gail Lange founded the Suzuki String School of Guelph. The Japanese tour group came to London in October of 1972 with accompanist Haruko Katoaka. This influenced Dorothy Jones to attend the American Suzuki Institute in 1973 where she met Valery Lloyd-Watts, who became first interested in Suzuki as a violin parent in Margery Aber’s studio. The first Ontario Suzuki piano workshop was held in Kingston in the fall of 1973, now Kingston Suzuki Institute. In 1973, Gail Lange also started observing Dorothy Jones and teaching in Guelph.

In 1974, Dr. William McCauley approach Jennifer Jahn to establish the Seneca Suzuki School. Jennifer had been teaching in the Hamilton and Guelph programs. Long term training workshops here with Sanford Reuning in the early 1980s and later with Michele Higa-George trained many teachers active now in Ontario. Other early sources of teacher development were the Southwestern Ontario Suzuki Piano Institute held in London annually from 1982 to 1986, and the Guleph Suzuki String Institute established in 1983. More recently, in 1993, Children’s Talent Education Centre in London was named by the International Suzuki Association as the first Suzuki Early Childhood Education Teacher Training Centre in the world.

From these beginnings in Hamilton, London, Guelph, Kingston, and Toronto, Suzuki teaching in Ontario has spread to over 60 communities in all parts of the province. In 1978, Dr. Suzuki was invited to present his ideas on music education at the International Society of Music Educators Conference which was hosted by the University of Western Ontario. He always emphasized in his philosophy talks the importance of nurturing children from an early age using the power of parental involvement.

It is a very interesting finding that, in the Ontario Suzuki teacher population, the majority started teaching as a result of first being a Suzuki parent and on-going development of teaching skills through attendance at summer institutes often as a family continues in our teachers.

~ Wendy Seravalle-Smith