Merna M. Thomas, a long-time Suzuki Teacher Trainer and pioneer of Suzuki piano education in northern California, passed away on Saturday, August 28, 2010. She was 85.
Merna was a private piano teacher in Reno, Nevada, and Oakland, California, for many years before receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Music from Holy Names College in Oakland. She became director of the Holy Names College Preparatory Music Department in 1976 and founded the department’s Suzuki Piano Program that same year. In 1983 she became a registered Suzuki Piano Teacher Trainer and in 1988 she was named chair of the HNC Music Department. Merna worked closely with Ruby Sneed, Brenda Sneed Harvey, Linda Jackson, Constance Starr, Haruko Kataoka, Harlow Mills, Doris Koppelman, and Jean Ishimaru.
Merna is survived by her husband, Ralph Thomas, daughters Charlene Holbrook and Melissa Thomas, son-in-law Dan Holbrook, granddaughters Ruth Holbrook, Lia Holbrook, and brother Larry McDonald.
As a teacher, Merna was creative, spontaneous, and dedicated; she had “an untiring love for teaching.” Her contribution to Suzuki piano education and her positive community influence are immeasurable.
A musical memorial service celebrating her life was held September 26, 2010, at Holy Names. Contributions may be made to the Ralph and Merna Thomas Scholarship Fund, c/o Katherine Baird, Holy Names University Preparatory Music Department, 3500 Mountain Blvd., Oakland, CA 94619.