Frank Longay

It is with difficulty and great sadness that the SAA Guitar Committee has attempted to put into words our sense of loss over the recent passing of Frank Longay.

Outside of Dr. Suzuki himself, Frank’s efforts were the primary source of energy and inspiration that shaped the Suzuki Guitar Method, and we hope that our continued work will honor his legacy.

My first encounter with Frank Longay was a message on my answering machine in 1985 before I left to study for a year with Dr. Suzuki in Japan. He had seen an announcement of my trip in Soundboard Magazine, and we made plans to meet on my way over. We had an interesting meeting comparing notes, and a year later he and I, along with Cesar Benavides from Lima, Peru, met at the 1986 SAA Conference and established the Suzuki Guitar Committee. An international committee was formed a few years later. As I consider the pace at which the Committee now works, with email, cell phone, and conference call capability at our fingertips, it is a wonder that we arrived at a consensus for Book One by 1990! We relied primarily on snail mail, we avoided costly phone calls, and our face-to-face opportunities were few and far between. Over the years, Frank and I logged a lot of hours together, and he had a profound impact on my life, both personally and professionally. The teaching points I picked up when I could sit in on his courses inevitably became fixtures in my own program.

Frank’s identity will forever be associated with this Method and philosophy that he both loved and sought to emulate with all his resources. His school has “painted the dream” for a whole generation of guitarists, and his commitment to excellence is something that all of us in the Suzuki Guitar community will do our best to carry forward.

–William Kossler

I met Frank Longay in June 1987 in the first Book One Teacher Training course he gave as an official SAA Teacher Trainer. The training took place at the Intermountain Suzuki Institute in Logan, Utah. At the time, I had hardly traveled outside the East Coast, and the pristine mountainous environment was a culture shock for me. I was studying music in New York City and the Suzuki Institute was also a very new experience. Arriving at Utah State University and immersing myself in the Suzuki world for the first time, I was blown away by the level of playing of the violin, cello, flute and harp kids—and then I went to my first training class with Frank!

Frank came on like a quiet hurricane, and his commitment and intensity were the first things that struck me about him. His presentation was meticulously prepared and it seemed that every detail was thought through. The posture, the fingering, the hand position, the order of teaching things, the use of nails, the approach to practicing, the use of the tape (yes, tape!), and above all, tone, tone, tone! My head was spinning after every session.

Because it was the first workshop in Utah, there were no local students for Frank to teach and for us to observe. To make the classes happen, Frank brought two students with him from San Jose, both named Shannon, ages eleven and thirteen. They were playing at a level that now would put them in Book Three or early Book Four, but at the time was what Frank was using as Book Two. They were such great kids, and played so well and with such enthusiasm that I think they made even more of an impression on me than Frank did himself, if that’s possible. The mom of one of the girls, who chaperoned them both around the Institute, was very friendly and open to chatting with us trainees.

During the week, Frank handed out to the trainees the parts to the famous Telemann Quartet in D Major to learn and play along with the girls in the final concert at weeks’ end. One night I was in my dorm room practicing scales. It was about nine in the evening after a typical long Institute day, and there was a knock at my door. It was the two Shannons and their chaperone, and they said, “Can we practice the Telemann with you?!” Of course, I agreed, and they filed in, set up their music stands, and we worked on the piece with just as much intensity as I ever experienced in a Manhattan School of Music ensemble practice.

For me, this memory has come to symbolize what Frank created and fostered for us: a new standard of motivation and spirit coupled with a new high standard of technical proficiency. For a novice teacher who had only seen this level of enthusiasm and ability in conservatory students, it was a revelation to see it in kids. A video Frank showed of his students playing in recitals at home in San Jose proved to us trainees that it was not a fluke, that he had many students who were playing at this same level and even higher!

Many years later at the Colorado Suzuki Institute, I was relaxing with other Institute faculty in a restaurant and had the pleasure to meet Danish cello teacher Anders Grøn, who said something that struck me: Dr. Suzuki was different not in the particulars of how he taught, but in the way he could transform a person’s work on the instrument just by being there and by his belief in the student and in the work. Anders believed that this transformative quality of Dr. Suzuki was his most important asset, which made it possible for him to motivate his students, their parents, and the teachers he trained to reach the heights they routinely did.

Taking a one-week institute with Frank transformed me from a conservatory student in search of a career into a Suzuki teacher and evangelist. From that time, I have been focused on the Method and on my students. Over the years, I took many more workshops with Frank and volunteered to do work for the Method, and through it all, Frank was there like my personal North Pole, setting my compass with his unwavering commitment to Suzuki ideals and his deep belief in the value of children and humanity.

In recent years, Frank founded and presided over the Longay Conservatory of Guitar in Santa Clara, California. This school, which he ran with his long-time partner Kim Buller, is a haven for Suzuki Guitar and the many students who have studied there with Frank, and his protégés Chris Mallett and Robert Miller embody the ideals Frank worked so hard to reach.

It is my hope and aspiration that I can live up to such ideals in my own life and career. I am grateful every day to have known Frank and to have studied and worked with him over the years. I know that he believed in me and in what I do because he never failed to offer his caring advice and his support for my efforts as a teacher and as a player.

Frank, I’ll miss you and think of you every time I take a bow!

–Seth Himmelhoch

The Man Who Dug the Well

We have lost so much with the passing of Frank Longay. All the feelings of shock, disbelief, anger and emptiness must have their time and place for each of us. But we have to pick ourselves up and rededicate our lives to the principles that guided Frank in his work and relationships—now we all bear a greater responsibility than before, and I believe we are all going to do our best.

It is heartening to know that even now, Frank is finding a way to bring us all together for a noble cause. This is not to deify Frank, as I am sure that is the last thing he would want any of us to do, but this is a time to remember the best things about Frank, and we all have lots of fond memories to share about an exceptional teacher, an inspiring leader and a truly good man.

My own relationship with Frank was complicated. He was my teacher—as a Suzuki trainee most of the nine guitar levels I took, plus overviews, were with Frank. He was my mentor—for my internship to become a Teacher Trainer I took his ECC course and re-took his totally re-worked and incredibly insightful Guitar Level I. To have been an acolyte of Frank’s is an honor. And to have spent time with him and his partner and fiance, Kim, “outside of class” as a friend, is even more so.

But always, by his bearing and his being, Frank commanded respect. I would say that he was like a father figure if we weren’t so close in age—maybe like an older brother is more appropriate. At the best of times, a big brother sets an excellent example of how to act, how to think, how to be. And sometimes, a big brother has to kick your butt.

I was among the group of teachers to take the first offering of Suzuki Guitar Level IX, with Frank as the Trainer, at MaryLou Roberts’ excellent institute in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2007. On the first day of classes, Frank followed his usual practice of having each of us talk about our studios, our students, and how life in general was going, including family life. This is a great way to start a week-long working relationship, because it addresses the whole person. I now include it in my own Teacher Training courses.

Frank then outlined the expectations for the week, including the class rules. Foremost among these rules was that cell phones should be turned off during lectures and classes. It’s a good rule, and one that I neglected to follow the next day, so of course, I received a call from home during a student’s lesson with Frank. I was embarrassed, and made a point of apologizing to the student and his mom, who were very gracious.

But I knew there would have to be atonement—and it came in the form of push-ups. Frank decided that I should do thirty of them, right there in class. Those who were present can attest to the fact that I made it through the ordeal—barely. I don’t know that I can honestly claim the last three as real push-ups, wobbly as they were. But I learned my lesson and made two vows that day—one, I would never mess up like that again, and two, just in case, I would work on my push-ups, which I have to this day. Frank, I can do fifty now!

There is no better way for me to close, and to remember Frank, than to repeat a great statement of his, about acknowledging and supporting your peers: “When you take a drink of water, be sure to thank the man who dug the well.”

Thanks, Frank.

–Mychal Gendron

I first met Frank Longay in May 1988, at the SAA teacher’s conference in Chicago. I was privileged to observe some of his students perform for Dr. Suzuki. At the time, Frank was not the main focus of my attention as this was the first time I had met Dr. Suzuki and I was excited to watch the man in action. What did impress me about Frank was his joy in seeing his students play for such an esteemed audience and the passion he demonstrated to Dr. Suzuki and the rest of those in attendance about his teaching and the progress of his students. After the performance, I introduced myself to Frank and we began a long friendship based on our mutual love of the guitar and the education of children based on Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy.

I first trained with Frank in Utah in 1991. We were doing what was then Book Two and Book Three in a one-week course and it was a lot of information to cover in a short amount of time. We put in long hours each day, and Frank made sure that we had time to have a little fun along with all the work. I remember him organizing a movie night and, of course, the inevitable volleyball game. On the last day of the course, by mid-afternoon, we were all a little punchy and having difficulty focusing. While Frank was explaining some detail, he inserted a joke into his discussion that woke everyone up and renewed our focus for the rest of the class. His passion for this work was contagious and those of us who were lucky enough to study with him received the best training imaginable.

I once went to Frank’s studio to observe his teaching for a week and present a parent lecture. This was early in my teaching career and the talk did not go particularly well. The next morning, at breakfast, Frank had me take out my notes and went through the whole talk with me and pointed out the strengths and weaknesses of the presentation. He was supportive but did not hesitate to tell me where I really goofed! His desire for me to be successful was quite apparent and I’ll always be grateful for his honesty and straightforward approach to any situation.

The last email I received from Frank included a video of his students performing. He wanted some feedback about the performances. He was always searching for ways to improve his own teaching and the quality of the experience he provided his students. He held nothing back when it came to the children in his care and he passed that message on to all of those who worked with him over the years. He felt that we all had the most important job in the world and that we must all strive to do our best at all times.

As we move on, I will remember the training sessions, the jokes, the volleyball, the passion for our work and the respect that was shown to everyone he worked with.

Goodbye my friend.

–Andy Lafreniere

There are so many sides to Frank Longay, it’s hard to pick just one. Frank taught me to speak from the heart, to stop using the words “or whatever” in my teaching, to dress professionally, to buy a copy machine for my studio, and to realize that children can use nails to produce tone, that tone could be practiced daily, and the list could go on and on and never be enough!

Throughout my teacher training, Frank came to Ann Arbor for eight years, guiding, prodding, and holding everyone to a higher form of excellence than we had ever dreamed of. I prepared my playing and my students all year in anticipation, so these became like a yearly practicum course for me. Seeing my students being taught by Frank was amazing. Frank was always encouraging, yet challenging; admiring, yet not too soft. It was through these training sessions that I evolved beyond myself at the time. It was what real professional development is all about—going beyond the masters degree, beyond the studio teacher, beyond what you thought was possible.

I will always remember when Frank and I went to lunch following the Ann Arbor Suzuki Guitar Institute. I was new at directing these week-long events, more relieved that it was over than anything else. When I commented on how tired I was, Frank said, “Yes, and doesn’t it feel good?” I didn’t know what to say, I was exhausted, my kids were edgy, and what good was that? Then he said, “The satisfaction of putting together a wonderful week.” It made me smile. I was so busy feeling tired I hadn’t noticed we had given the teachers, parents and children a memorable week. “Yes!” I said. I never realized the value of good, satisfying work so much as I felt that day. How good it is to work hard, and then rest, knowing you gave your very best, something so good it was truly worth it. Thanks, Frank. Now you can rest, knowing you gave us more than we ever could have imagined!

–MaryLou Roberts

I met Frank Longay in the summer of ’91 when he came to Connecticut to train Book 1A about an hour from my house. I was already involved in the Suzuki Method with my daughter and her violin lessons, and I decided to train so I could add a few more students to my studio. There was no expectation of the life-changing experience that followed. Frank taught me more about guitar teaching in that first week than did three years of music study in college and the thirteen years of teaching experience that followed. More importantly, he taught that teaching is more than passing on a skill set, it is about developing a relationship with your students, helping your students become sensitive musicians, and helping your students strive for the best they can do in all they do. It is about teaching from the heart and holding and maintaining high standards.

Frank was a tipping point for the Suzuki Guitar Method. He inspired me to move towards an all-Suzuki studio, he encouraged me to move through the training, he gave me solid advice on how to conduct the business of teaching. His mentoring helped me become a trainer and begin to pass the knowledge on to many other trainees. This is just a tiny facet of the effect Frank had on the Suzuki guitar world.

The techniques for working with young children on the guitar that Frank developed, used, and shared are with all of us who trained with him. Every time I observed him teach or trained with him it was obvious that he was constantly refining his approach towards teaching children to develop the correct habit from the beginning. Even casual conversation while driving together in the car could help you reevaluate what you had been doing. “You know, I spend a lot more time on Twinkle now.”

The time we spent together, professionally and personally, was filled with so much positive energy, and I will always treasure the memories. I remember a touch football game we had on a beach in Santa Cruz with some trainees and Gabe, son of Frank’s partner and fiancé. It was such pure fun that we had trouble playing through the laughter, and we even had people coming out on their balconies to watch us. I’m sure they weren’t watching because of our football prowess. Frank made sure to include those kinds of experiences wherever he was, as they help strengthen relationships and give renewed focus to the tasks at hand.

I am thankful to have known Frank and to have learned about life from him. As we move forward in developing the Suzuki guitar community, I will keep his wisdom, respect for children, and countless other lessons close to my heart. We will miss you, Frank!

–Dave Madsen

At the Hartt Institute in the summer of 1996, I took the nine-day training course in 1A and 1B with Frank. The memories of that week and the great “Wow!” experience I had meeting Frank and seeing him teach have transcended the years. His clever teaching methods continue to influence my work with students at home and with my trainees, who are building their own programs. Frank made another important contribution in my heart many years later when he encouraged me as a new Teacher Trainer. He was happy to have me on board, he said, and felt excited for the diversity I “brought to the mix” through my background in jazz. He made a point to compliment my growth and progress since those early days in his Book One class. Hearing his confidence expressed toward me was particularly meaningful since he was my first Suzuki mentor.

–Andrea Cannon

It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Frank Longay. The man who taught and inspired so many left us far earlier than we wished. Like so many others, Frank was the first Suzuki guitar teacher I saw teach. While his contributions to the development of the guitar are immense, it is his teaching of children that I will remember most. He made a special connection with the youngest students that is hard to describe or replicate. I think they would do anything for him. His school is an amazing model- in every way- for teachers of any discipline around the world. While his standards were high-I know he will look down in awe one day at what we have been able to accomplish. Thanks Frank.

–Joe Pecoraro

After my first meeting with Frank, I knew that the Suzuki Guitar community around the world was indeed very fortunate. Frank not only took care of families and children in his daily work but also was extremely skilled and effective in his office work—something I have witnessed many times through the International Guitar Committee. Frank was a founding member and chairman of both the Guitar Committee of the International Suzuki Association and the Guitar Committee for the Suzuki Association of the Americas.

Frank also worked tirelessly as a Teacher Trainer and conducted numerous courses and workshops throughout Australia, Europe and, of course, the US. He once also visited Sweden, my native country, long before I had even started my first Suzuki class.

The Suzuki Guitar community has lost a leading figure of great importance! It is now our responsibility to carry on the work that Frank Longay stood for, following Dr. Suzuki’s work and philosophy with cooperation and understanding.

–Harald Söderberg, European Suzuki Association Guitar Teacher Trainer, Sweden
Excerpted with permission from the ESA website.

Frank was a remarkable person who followed his vision and made it a reality. Many years ago, he studied cello with me so that he could find out how the cello repertoire progressed and what ideas I was using for Pre-Twinkle cellists. It was a joy for me to see the guitar teachers gather at the SAA conferences and to have this movement grow, nurtured by Frank’s example. The blossoming of the Suzuki guitar community was so evident, especially at the Turin conference. It was very moving to hear the Suzuki Association of Northern California guitar graduation performances in Oakland, California, on January 30, 2011 and to realize how this one person made such a difference. –Barbara Wampner

I was one of Frank’s first students back in the early ’80s. Frank always inspired me with his love for teaching and his love for his students. He was warm, patient, innovative, and funny. I always looked forward to my lessons with him and because of his influence, I loved playing guitar and have continued on to make it my career. I can only hope that I’ll pass along a small part of his inspiration to my own students. I am so saddened by this loss and my heart goes out to his past and present students, friends, and family. Frank, may you rest in peace and may God bless all those who were touched by your presence in their lives.

–Connie Sheu (the little girl in Book One)

It is with extreme shock and very deep sadness that I learn of Frank’s passing; Frank was an amazing and inspirational trainer. I learned so much from him during last summer’s Book One training which has led me to pioneer the Suzuki Guitar Method in my country (Singapore). He supported my efforts by urging me to attend Book Two training with Zeah Riordan in Melbourne, Australia. I remember his dedication and professionalism and admire the high standard of Suzuki families in his program. His sudden passing is a reminder to all to cherish every single moment in life and dedicate all to our good work to the world and humanity. Frank has left a legacy; he has extended the work of Shinichi Suzuki for the guitar community worldwide. He showed us what children are capable of and taught teachers to bring the Suzuki philosophies and method back to their communities.

Dear Frank, I deeply appreciate and cherish your teachings, I live them and teach them to children in Singapore. I am extremely honored to be trained by you and now have to task of meeting the Suzuki standard that you have set in your school. Though I am sad that you had to leave so soon, I am sure your past trainees and colleagues will perpetuate your work and the desires you have for Suzuki guitar. May God bless you and keep you safe eternally.

–Andrew Wee, The Little Arts Academy, Singapore

I’m overwhelmed by this news, it is impossible to think that Frank is no longer there. I have no words, but I find them, because Frank was a good man: I have found help from him and I learned a lot. In about thirty years of working together I remember every moment because every time I saw you was special and unique. Unforgettable are the years spent discussing and building the first books of the method, how much patience and desire you had. On the opposite sides of the Earth we began a journey together which united us. How much work you have done! Your courage and your happiness are always with us.

–Elio Galvagno, European Suzuki Association Guitar Teacher Trainer Italy