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Remembering Constance Starr and Her Commitment to Helping Others through Music

Constance Starr, who revolutionized the musical landscape by bringing the Suzuki Piano method to the United States more than four decades ago, passed away August 26 at her home in Boulder, Colorado. Her impact in the music community at the University of Tennessee, however, continues. 

She and her husband Bill, a longtime UT faculty member and head of the Department of Music (now the School of Music) from 1977 to 1982, were the first to bring the Suzuki Piano method to the US. The Suzuki method teaches children to play by ear before they learn to read music. In 1968 and 1969, according to the Suzuki Association of the Americas, the couple spent 14 months in Japan observing the Suzuki Piano teaching method with Shinichi Suzuki, the creator of the method. 

Their passion and care for the music community were evident as they passed along the Suzuki method to American piano teachers through Constance’s many workshops, especially at UT. 

“People across the US came to UT to study the method and visit with Dr. Suzuki, who visited Knoxville regularly to aid in teaching the method to students,” said Fay Adams, retired UT piano instructor and former director of the Suzuki Piano School of Knoxville. 

After Bill and Constance moved to Colorado, Adams took over the Suzuki Piano program at UT and continued the momentum that Constance had built. 

“Constance opened new doors for many of us and offered the training to anyone who was interested,” Adams said. “I am so grateful to her for introducing this wonderful way of teaching young children to me.”

More than her many acclaimed books, articles, and workshops, Starr is known for her nurturing personality and her commitment to her students through the Suzuki philosophy. 

“She truly believed every child was capable of learning to play a musical instrument, and you could see that in her work,” Adams said.

There is no doubt that Constance Starr will be missed dearly, but her legacy will continue to flourish for decades to come, at UT and beyond, through the Suzuki method. 

Contact: Jeff Roberts (865-974-8935, jrobe126@utk.edu)

 

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