I’m a sucker for a good old American dream story. That’s the kind where somebody starts with nothing, and through determination and hard work, creates something fabulous. It makes me happy to be part of a society that values that sort of thing. The story I’m going to tell is particularly intriguing because it’s about two entities, once unknown to each other, and how they became entwined based on their common values—and dreams.
The first character in this story is the Suzuki Association of the Americas. This year will mark the fortieth anniversary of the organization. Started by a small group of people with a passion for the potential of Suzuki Education to positively impact the lives of children, and literally no money, the organization now boasts over 8,000 members. The budget now supports teacher development, scholarships, annual conferences, and a staff that is dedicated to making great things happen. SAA is the parent organization to institutes and chapter affiliates all over North and South America. The number of lives nurtured by Suzuki Education continues to grow, and the SAA is largely responsible for making the method recognized as the premier vehicle for quality music education. When leaders are led by heart to make the world a better place, the story is bound to have a happy ending.
The next player in this duet is Don Robertson, an entrepreneur who started a small business repairing stringed instruments in his garage at about the same time that the SAA was forming. As a child, he began playing the cello in his school orchestra. His love for the cello and for music escalated to the point that he knew music education would be his career choice. Once he completed college and was comfortably established teaching orchestra in the public schools, he recognized a need in his community for someone who could provide reasonably priced instruments and basic repairs. And so he took on the task himself, establishing Robertson and Sons Violins, first in his garage, then in a small storefront, and finally moving to a newly constructed shop specifically designed to suit the unique needs of this thriving business. Are you wondering about the “Sons” part of the business moniker? Well, Don married Marie, also a music educator, and together with three of their four now grown sons, they converge daily to serve a musical community that spans the globe. Sometimes it takes a family, one united by their love of music and dedicated to serving their community.
So how is it that these two outstanding performers became affiliated? It’s not surprising that Don became acquainted with the Suzuki method, as he was quickly forced to increase his inventory of small stringed instruments in order to meet the demand. As he learned more and saw the extraordinary results, he became a champion of the method, eventually serving on the SAA Board of Directors. Even as he honed his skills as a businessman, Don never wavered in his belief in the power of music to change lives, exemplified by the love of music instilled in his sons. He recognized that values fundamental to the success of his business—values such as integrity, community, excellence, music, and education—are also at the core of the SAA.
In support of these values, Robertson and Sons Violins will sponsor the Kaleidoscope Project, the first phase of which will be presented at the 2012 SAA Conference. I am moved by the generosity of this family and their willingness to share their success with SAA. It’s a beautiful symbiotic relationship—the success of one shines more brightly on the other. Everyone’s American dream comes true.
“Thank you, Don, for having the vision and business acumen to invest, not solely in products of wood and strings, but in the intangible belief in human potential.”