Suzuki Music Association of CaliforniaSan Diego Branch
SMAC - SDB Events
Submitted by Susanna Han
Yoko Onaka (nee Aoyama) was born on October 24, 1946, in Tokyo, Japan, attended schools and graduated from Keio University in 1969. She worked in the office of Kenzo Tange, Architect, where she met and married Jun Onaka in 1974. She moved with Jun to Atlanta, GA, in 1975, then to Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, PA, and in 1983 settled in San Diego. She gave birth to Teisuke in Santa Monica, CA, and to Ryosuke in Pittsburgh, PA. She died on July 3, 2018, of complications from metastatic kidney cancer.
She began playing the violin as a child and was a member of the Keio University Orchestra. Later she attended San Diego State University, obtained a certificate in the teaching of Suzuki Method, taught violin to children and young adults for 27 years until a few weeks before her death. She was committed to teaching the basics of violin playing, including proper posture, tonality, and rhythm. Many of her students went on to continue their violin education in San Diego and elsewhere. Over the years she continued her music education, taking courses in piano, music theory, and opera appreciation. Yoko was also interested in flower arrangement and the visual arts. Visiting art museums was a favorite activity when traveling abroad with her family.
Yoko was blessed with many friends everywhere she lived, particularly in San Diego. She was active in the Keio University alumni association of San Diego and helped celebrate its 50-year history. During more than a year of battling cancer, she was sincerely grateful for the abundant emotional and physical support she received from her friends.
Yoko Onaka was a vibrant and vital part of the Suzuki Music Association of California – San Diego Branch. For many years, she dedicated her time to help review graduation recordings. Her comments were always honest, helpful and from the heart. She also collaborated on several occasions with other local Suzuki teachers in GALA fundraising concerts. The effects of her charisma will remain with us here at SMAC-SDB always. (Yoko is pictured above with her student, Robert (Bob) Helmuth.)
Contributions in lieu of flowers may be made to: The San Diego Foundation for Creative Catalyst Fund, 2508 Historic Decatur Road, Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92106; Memo: Yoko Onaka.
Yoko is survived by husband Jun, son Teisuke, daughter-in-law Meera, son Ryosuke, daughter-in-law Misato, and grandson Jyn.
By Susanna Han-Sanzi
SARA JOSEPHINE MCGUIRE HAN was a native of Kentucky. She was born on September 7, 1924 to her parents Rosalie Cooper and Garret McGuire. She was the eldest of five children. Throughout her life, she was especially close to her brother Eugene.
Sara left Ashland to attend the University of Minnesota where she earned her BS and M. Ed. degrees. Following her graduation, she moved to California where she enjoyed serving as a camp counselor at Cuyamaca and Palomar Sixth Grade Camps. Many of her closest friends came from this very special time in her life. Later, she attended the University of Southern California and graduated with a Master’s of Library Science degree. She worked for several years at USC’s Doheny Library, and it was at USC where she met her husband, Alex Han.
Sara was first introduced to the Suzuki method in Denver, Colorado when she was searching for a violin teacher for her daughter, Cassandra. Sara met Sister Margeurite who was trained by John Kendall to be the first teacher in Colorado. In the early days of Suzuki, John Kendall implemented a program to train one teacher from each state. St. Margeurite proudly represented Colorado. The friendship between Sara and Sister Marguerite remained strong throughout their lives and she travelled on many occasions to teach at summer Suzuki camps that Sara organized in San Diego.
Sara was an integral part of forming the Suzuki Association of California – San Diego Branch, and she was honored with a Life Membership in 1986. She held meetings in her home, and for many years organized annual workshops where out-of-town teachers came to work with local students.
During many summers of the 1980’s, Sara brought violin teacher Ms. Toshiko Hasegawa and several of her accomplished students from Nagoya, Japan. Pony rides, art and dance classes were all part of these fun-filled summer programs. Some campers would stay the entire week, and these students usually practiced late in to the night with Ms. Hasegawa. On certain special occasions, Dr. Han would drive campers through the moonlit roads of Rancho Santa Fe in his pick-up truck to get ice-cream at Swenson’s Ice Cream Parlor.
Travelling for music was very important to Sara, and she took both of her daughters to Japan when they were 10 and 12 to meet Dr. Suzuki. Evelyn Hermann (author ofThe Man and His Philosophy) organized this trip, and it made a lasting impression. They also attended the World Convention in Munich the following year. Both Susanna and Cassandra studied for long-term periods of time at the Talent Education Institute in Matsumoto, Japan. After Susanna’s graduation in 1987, they founded and developed Suzuki Heritage Center where Sara taught piano until her retirement in 2012.
Sara Jo was a light-hearted spirit who adored animals, ice cream and her favorite movie wasAuntie Mame. She loved belonging to St. Paul’s Cathedral, and when she could no longer attend services there, they came to worship with her at home. Sara Jo passed away peacefully at home on the morning of August 12, 2017, just a few moments after hearing from Cassandra (who resides in Italy with her husband, Lorenzo). Her son-in-law, David Sanzi, was playing Beethoven at the piano. Her grandchildren are Valentina and Luca Viti.
Written in 2009 by Glen Campbell, Suzuki cello teacher and friend.
The two times I had the good fortune to meet Dr. Suzuki, I was with Ted Brunson. Ted introduced me to Dr. Suzuki and to the Suzuki method, as he had done for so many other students and teachers in his long teaching career. Ted’s introduction to the Talent Education method was in 1959 when John Kendall visited Mankato State University where Ted was teaching in the music department and at the Campus School. Kendall shared his concern that financially disadvantaged children in the U.S. wouldn’t be able to afford true Suzuki instruction. Kendall proposed that they jointly develop an adaptation of the Suzuki Violin Method for use in heterogeneous string classes in the public school. Ted went on his own with the idea and started an adapted Suzuki method string class in the Fall of 1959 and by Thanksgiving presented a 12-member Suzuki string class accurately performing the Twinkle Variations-a thrill for the schools’ PTA. The success of the program inspired the school’s principal to write an article, An Administrator Views the Suzuki-Kendall String Method that was published in the American String Teacher, 1963.
Of course, Ted was no stranger to teaching. Following his discharge from the Navy after the Korean War, he developed an award-winning string program at the Junior high school in Rochester, MN where he taught from 1949-1959. In 1964, while at Mankato State, Ted received a grant to produce a film, “The Adaptation of the Suzuki-Kendall String Method for Heterogeneous String Classes: featuring the Wilson Campus School String Players of Mankato State University. Ted was subsequently invited to lecture and show the film at state and national education conventions in the U.S. and Canada. After a year’s sabbatical in 1965-66, spent at the University of Arizona where he finished course work for his doctorate, Ted accepted a job at SDSU (San Diego State University) founding a Suzuki String Program at their request, which began in 1967. During the years that followed, Ted continued to direct this program as well as teaching violin and viola, string classes (using his adapted Suzuki method), string pedagogy, Suzuki string pedagogy, string chamber music ensembles, string music education, thesis writing and research, and serving as violist in the faculty string quartet. He gave a recital every year as well as playing two seasons with the San Diego Symphony and Opera.
The summer of 1968 found Ted in Japan studying at the Suzuki Summer School. During the summer of 1969, Ted organized and presented a 3-week SDSU String Pedagogy workshop. The three guest instructors were Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, Samuel Applebaum and Yoshiko Nakajima, each of whom taught for a week. Thirty students from his Suzuki program served as the basis for teaching and demonstrations.
Ted taught at and directed two of the first three American Suzuki Institutes-Southwest along with Elizabeth Mills. Approximately 1000 participants attended the Institute held at SDSU. Ted’s program at SDSU steadily grew and in 1974 twenty of his students appeared as unison soloists with the San Diego Symphony in the first movement of the Bach Double Concerto. This student performing group (ages 8-14) also performed at the 1974 MENC biennial National Convention held in Anaheim, CA. Ted taught at Institutes throughout the world.
In 1980, Ted was selected to give the first teaching and lecture demonstration of the Suzuki Violin Method on a national television network (The NBC-TV Today Show). Ted was invited to appear at the 4th and 5th (1979, 1981) International Suzuki Method conferences where he presented his students, his teaching and his own pedagogical publications. In 1983, Ted was honored by being selected by Dr. Suzuki as one of 17 non-Japanese Suzuki teachers to teach at the 6th International Suzuki Method Conference held at Matsumoto, Japan. Ted was also invited to teach at Conferences in Australia and Korea.
Ted was always interested in finding ways to help his students perform to the best of their potential. Through his brother, an educational psychologist, he discovered the Alexander Technique, introducing me and others to this technique by bringing Marjorie Barstow, the renowned Alexander teacher who had trained and worked closely with Alexander, to SDSU for a week of lectures and demonstrations. Following this he brought local Alexander teachers to SDSU to demonstrate the technique to both his college and Suzuki students, setting up regular training programs for each. Continuing along this line Ted invented the Brunson Practice/Performance Podium (a modified small trampoline) for improving the use of the body and, consequently, tone production, also encouraging his students to play while seated on Scandinavian Balans chairs. Ted’s inquisitive mind was always on the alert for new ways to help students perform better.
I will always remember Monday night group lessons with Ted demonstrating and correcting many cases of “collapsitis”, “droopitis” or “helium elbow”, the nights when he “lost” his up bow and we played our Twinkles with all downs. And who could forget the “health food” cookies for treats. Ted shared with me that a big part of the job of directing a program of this kind is moving furniture. And it was true. I spent many Monday nights after the students went home helping him move chairs back into place. He was the kindest man I have ever known. I never heard him speak badly of anyone. Many of his former students came to visit and play for him in his final year or two as he battled the effects of Alzheimer’s, a testament to their deep regard for him and what he had brought into their lives. I can think of no greater testament to the value placed on a person’s teaching than this. We are indebted to him for his pioneering work in the Suzuki Method. There would be no Suzuki String Program in San Diego without his work. He will be missed.
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