Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
Reflections Upon Our 25th Anniversary
by Doris Preucil, Director Emeritus
In reflecting on the past twenty-five years, so many memories surface that it is difficult to decide what to write. The twelve years of teaching by the Suzuki Method before opening the School are dear to my heart because they changed my life. Learning how to work with very young children and their parents, and watching them develop in extraordinary ways created a burning desire to share this wonderful method with more families and prospective teachers. Hence, the founding of a School based on Suzuki philosophy, which enriches all lives it touches. My former student, Sonja Berven (later Zeithamel), a UI music major, was already a gifted teacher, having trained and taught with me since 1969. She shared my dream and accepted the responsibility of being Assistant Director. My parents and the First National Bank helped us financially, trusting that this venture would be successful.
When I first saw our building on September 4, 1974, and especially the auditorium, I was awed, both by its possibilities as a school and by its incredible state of disrepair. In spite of making an immediate offer, problems with the sellers, the deed, and with zoning had me in despair until we finally acquired it in December. A few amazing holiday weeks of carpenters, our family, and the newly hired teachers building studios, painting every inch, and making administrative plans made it possible for us to open the main floor on January 2, 1975. Besides the violin students Sonja and I had been teaching, people came! And came!
Those were exciting days. It was especially heartwarming to see the happiness of the students who had been with us before the School, to have facilities for group lessons and recitals, and share music making with violists, cellists, and pianists in our newly expanded curriculum. They were proud of "their" building, and with their parents volunteered to do many tasks in our understaffed School for many years.
The auditorium walls were blackened from soot, windows were broken, and birds were flying inside the hall. The only heat was a pot-bellied stove, and one broken light fixture hung from the ceiling. After the auditorium was made livable, Bill spent months on scaffolding, replacing the original stencil artwork around the walls. My sister, Carol, and I sewed the curtains. We presented our first recital in this new concert hall in May of 1976.
In the early years of the Suzuki Method, many professional musicians were critical; not believing that "nurturing by love" could develop well-trained musicians. Nothing could more easily refute that than the students themselves. In the twenty-eight years since the first Suzuki students entered high school, we have had 18 concertmasters and 45 principal players in the All-State Orchestra, and annual first-prize winners in all the major state competitions. Interestingly, several of these outstanding players have not pursued musical careers, and are gifted in their chosen fields as well.
The years 1985-1988 were a time of expansion, first with an Endowment Fund campaign that raised $209,000 and a $500,000 Building campaign that gave us a new floor of studios and improved the condition of our historic building. At that time Bill and I gave our building to the School Corporation. The generous support of school parents and community friends touched us very deeply and has continued to enrich and expand our efforts for the children.
The European concert tours of our String Orchestra in 1991, 1994 and 1997, are special memories--winning First Prize at the Vienna International Festival, appearing on Austrian Public Radio, and making a CD recording in Germany. Closer to home, appearances at conferences in Chicago, on IPBN's "Studio Three," and working with guest conductors such as the late Robert Shaw, Frederick Fennell, and Christian Tiemeyer were inspiring for the students.
The Gala Concert held on January 18, 1998 to recognize Bill and me upon my retirement as Director was one of the most moving experiences of my life. Seeing so many of our alumni on stage and hearing them play together again--such memories will never fade.
As I write this, in October 2000, a major event of our twenty-fifth anniversary celebration has just taken place. Our beloved auditorium, where so much in the life of the School happens, has been named for Herbert and Janice Wilson, in gratitude for their extraordinary and dedicated support. This will be an important day to remember when reminiscing on our fiftieth anniversary!
As Suzuki said, "The greatest joy an adult can know is to develop the wonderful abilities of children." When all is said and done, what has inspired our gifted teachers and helpers through the years has been the privilege of working with children--our hopes for the future.