Good morning! I am Beth Titterington and a current SAA board member. I am pleased and humbled to present this award to Eleanor Allen. Unfortunately, Eleanor, who will be 93 on June 5th, is not able to be with us this morning. She is, however, informed about the award and is very pleased. Her four children, Bob, Burt, Louise, and Marion, and her five grandchildren and one great-grandchild are excited for her as well.
Some history is appropriate previous to hearing the insightful words of Alice Joy Lewis who, although absent from today’s presentation due to institute commitments, offers elegant testimony of Eleanor Allen and her successful spreading of Dr. Suzuki’s ideas.
Eleanor Allen graduated from the Oberlin Conservatory with her Bachelor’s degree in violin performance in 1937, her teacher was Raymond Cerf. She went on to teach in Maine, Massachusetts, and then Connecticut where she met her husband Sam. Sam was a minister and took a job in 1956 in Lawrence, Kansas, where Eleanor then raised their four children and obtained her Masters degree in music education at the University of Kansas. Eleanor must have heard about the Talent Education Tour Group that performed in Philadelphia at the MENC Convention in 1964 because she traveled the very next year. She met Dr. Suzuki in Emporia, Kansas, in 1965, as did her good friend Norma Jean Seaton, a past president of the SAA. Enthusiasm naturally ensued from this workshop, and in 1966, Norma Jean attended “Project Super” in New York State. “SUPER” stood for “Suzuki in Penfield, Eastman and Rochester.” Norma Jean shared her knowledge gained with Eleanor, as did all the teachers in this period of time. Eleanor traveled to Japan three times in the 1970’s to study and bring her knowledge of the Suzuki Method back to the Midwest, She continued to learn and share the Suzuki philosophy with students, parents and teachers. Thus, the title of her award, Suzuki Pioneer in the Heartland of America.
Eleanor has taught at Suzuki Institutes throughout America and every year of the Ottawa Mid-Southwest Suzuki Institute. She directed countless workshops in Kansas and she helped me found the Heart of America Suzuki Teachers Association. She taught hundreds of students and parents and mentored dozens of teachers. I was one of them and I am here to tell you that her practicum /apprenticeship course was really difficult! Looking back, I’m so glad it was! Eleanor’s colleague, Jean Dexter, offers this tribute: “I met Eleanor in 1969 at the Suzuki workshop in Edwardsville, Illinois. She became the first Suzuki teacher in Kansas and has been an inspiration to myself and many others for decades.” Sue Kwak, another colleague, lovingly remembers Eleanor teaching her daughter Sarah, now First Associate Concertmaster of the Minneapolis Orchestra. Both Sarah Kwak and Brian Lewis, concert violinist currently teaching at the University of Texas at Austin, are among the hundreds of students that Eleanor influenced from the 1960’s through the 1990’s. Alice Joy gives the following tribute to Eleanor:
From Alice Joy Lewis:
How fortunate we are to have Eleanor Allen in our lives! My personal experiences with Eleanor have been as teacher of my children, as mentor to me in my own Teaching, as colleague in the world of Suzuki teaching, and as a dear personal friend, In all of these arenas, I see the following characteristics like lovely threads woven into the beautiful tapestry of her life.
First, Eleanor Allen’s standard is always excellence! Her musicianship and her expectations of her students1 developing musical and technical skills never faltered from the highest quality. Never “in a hurry”, she required quality first, quantity second.
Secondly, this dedication to excellence was for all of her students, she modeled so well, accepting the student lovingly at whatever level they came, and then teaching meticulously, creating the environment for growth, and nurturing each student’s achievement.
Eleanor’s rapport with both of my children who are violinists was and still is amazing! Brian began his lessons with her at age 4 and Beth attended her first violin lesson at two weeks old. Both loved Mrs. Allen then and love her still.
Eleanor was an effective communicator who would dwell on the positive, always accepting the child and never accepting excesses. Her “can do” attitude, flavored with a sense of play fullness made the expected work a delight.
As my mentor, colleague and friend Eleanor remains a loyal, trusted confidant to whom I have brought countless questions over the years. Her advice provided a solid foundation in the development of both my own studio and the Ottawa Suzuki Institute Mid-Southwest, Eleanor’s dedication to her own continued learning and personal growth is reflected in the fact that, in addition to teaching at the Institute in all 34 years of its existence, she continued to take enrichment classes! She exemplifies Dr. Suzuki’s belief that the teacher must continue to grow. As Suzuki said, “When the teacher stops learning, it is reflected in the students.”
Thank you, Eleanor Allen!
From Brian Lewis:
Eleanor Allen has had a major impact in my life, from the beginning of my violin studies at age four, to now as a performer, teacher, and mentor to the next generation of promising young artists. Mrs. Allen is the Kansas woman with New England sensibility. She very patiently taught me so many things over the year, including focus, discipline, and the joys of performance. Not a day goes by that I do not draw upon her wisdom. The true power of a great teacher lies in their ability to enable their students to thrive and improve; Mrs. Allen’s dedication to sharing the vision of Dr. Suzuki has enriched us all. Mrs. Allen’s commitment to life-long learning is something I hope to still be doing when I am in my nineties. In one of my Teacher Development courses a few years ago, Mrs. Allen was a member of the class, replaying the Franck sonata which she had studied in college at Oberlin; I was deeply honored to have my first teacher be part of the class. As she said, “Now you are the teacher, and I am the student”. Mrs. Allen truly symbolizes the great teaching and philosophy of Dr. Suzuki.
Only a few weeks ago, Mrs. Allen came to hear me perform the Mendelssohn Violin concerto when I was home in Kansas, and, as always, she brought a smile to my face and happiness to my heart when I saw her backstage. I will always cherish the countless hours we’ve spent together, and I am thankful to have been a part of the community she helped to build not only in our home state of Kansas, but across the nation and the world. Congratulations Mrs. Allen!
With love and best wishes always from Brian Lewis, the little kid who did not like to stand still in group class!
You can view Eleanor’s enthusiasm and her seriousness about excellence on the UWSP digital collection/library site. It is the 15th of the 35 videos that appear there.
Thanks to Alice Joy and everyone who has helped to make this award a very meaningful one for Eleanor, All who would like to add their thoughts to this tribute are welcome to do so. I will deliver all tributes to her next week in Lawrence, Kansas.