From a video presentation assembled by colleagues, family, and friends.
Cleo Brimhall is the founder of all the enduring Suzuki programs in Utah. She started the Utah Talent Education Guild under Dr. Suzuki’s loving guidance and has stayed on the SAU board for the entire 40 years that it has been an ongoing organization. Without Cleo’s guidance and patience it may not have grown into the amazing organization it has become today, the Suzuki Association of Utah. Here is its board. Cleo founded the first Suzuki institute in Utah, which is having its 30th anniversary this year. Several other instrument-specific institutes are in existence because of her efforts. This is why we held Cleo Brimhall day in Utah ten years ago. And as we all know, that means Roger and Cleo Brimhall day.
The first international institutes drew in people from all over the country. People who knew her in these years saw how absolutely undaunted she was by the challenges such a yearly commitment presented. The hours were horrendous, the pay minimal, the organization requirements excessive and the results incredible. Cleo does not just start things; she nurtures them and tends them like a mother hen until they are strong and able to stand on their own.
Perhaps most significant of all, Cleo Brimhall is a visionary. She sees the future, its possibilities, and gifts. She dedicates herself to fulfilling this mission. The vision becomes her mission, and she not only gives herself to it, but invites and inspires other to join her in it. To her, it’s not the destination, but the journey.
Cleo discovered the Suzuki Method in 1968 through her daughter, Suzanne, taking Suzuki violin lessons at the University of Nebraska, where Cleo was working on her master’s degree. Cleo eventually started receiving her own Suzuki training, being extremely diligent in doing so. Cleo has been to Japan several times, and has just returned in April 2008. Dr. Suzuki recognized Cleo’s innate enthusiasm so much that on one occasion he printed her name on the training certificate as “Cleo Brimha,” two exclamation points.
Cleo has also expanded her connections in the national and international Suzuki communities. She served on the SAA board, helping to develop this very award and has established relationships with many significant people dedicated to the Suzuki vision. Yes, Cleo learned early on the three secrets of successful leadership, 1: to bite off more than you can chew and then chew it, 2: to keep a lot on your plate, and 3: a leader needs to wear many different hats.
Meanwhile, back in Utah Cleo has maintained a piano studio with students of all ages and with many teachers at her side has supervised various multi-piano events culminating in two very successful ten-piano concerts in 2004 and 2007. She is a wiz on the computer and organizes everything for the rest of us, spending countless hours behind the scenes. Does Cleo get stressed? Only when conducting twenty-five hundred Suzuki students playing “Twinkles” in front of fifteen thousand people, but she came out OK.
Cleo’s husband, Roger, is the wind beneath her wings. They just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. As Roger nurtures Cleo, so Cleo is Utah’s visionary nurturer and I say “Viva la visionnaire.”