Jeannine: Who is David Clark, and how did you find a career in music?
Dr. Clark: As a child, I was drawn to classical music and especially the organ. From as far back as I can remember, I went to see and hear pipe organs at every opportunity. I desperately wanted to play them (as I had already started piano at about age eight), but of course was never allowed to touch a pipe organ in those days, so I just looked, longed and listened. So organs and organ music have been a passion for as long as I can remember!
I graduated from Melbourne University, Victoria, Australia, in piano and organ in 1968. Then I did further organ study overseas with Dr Martin Neary at Winchester Cathedral and post graduate study in musicology and organ with Dr Warren Becker at Andrews University, Michigan, including a Summer School in Suzuki Piano at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point. That was my first introduction to Suzuki piano teaching.
I was a Senior Lecturer and Chair of the Music Department (now Avondale Conservatorium) at Avondale College, NSW, for over thirty years. I taught musicology, organ, piano and French over that time. Apart from my day job I am a half-marathon runner, amateur horticulturist (we live on three acres) and love hiking with family and friends.
J: You are well-known in the music world of Australia as a proponent of the Suzuki organ teaching method: What is unique about the Suzuki philosophy?
Dr. Clark: Dr Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998) outlines his philosophy in his book “Nurtured by Love.” (Alfred Music; Revised edition, 2013) He realised that all children learn – some well, some badly – depending on their environment. They learn to speak their nativeaa language (or more languages if they are surrounded by them) perfectly well, without any accent: something an adult can only do with great difficulty! Thinking about this natural Mother Tongue environment, he realised that babies and very young children absorb music in the same way, immersed in the language of music by repeated listening – even before birth. Then when they later show an interest in learning to play – sometimes as young as two or three – as our son did with the cello – they learn in small steps suited to their individual development. From this flows the philosophy of learning with love, the most natural and important way a young child will absorb music as a language from their environment. This is what is unique about the Suzuki philosophy –all young children can learn to play music well, as a natural part of their lives. Of course this can only be achieved by informed, involved parents and highly skilled teachers. Teacher training and professional development are at the heart of the Suzuki Triangle – parent – child – teacher. This is why many teachers from all over the world flocked to Matsumoto, Japan, where Dr Suzuki taught three year olds to play the violin. Teachers observed, listened and played, absorbing the skills needed to teach young children. Many of them graduated and went back to their countries to spread the Suzuki philosophy, which is now global.
For those who want to find out more, there is an excellent account of the Suzuki philosophy here: http://www.suzukimusic.org.au/suzuki.htm#phil
Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist, and David Jordan, media artist, are the creators and performers of three organ and multi-media concert experiences, Around the World in 80 Minutes, Bach and Sons, and From Sea to Shining Sea. Contact Dr. Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.