Martha Stacy Brought Suzuki Method for Piano to Oberlin

March 29, 2017

Erich Burnett

professor Martha Stacy
Photo credit: Courtesy of Oberlin College Archives

Martha Stacy, a longtime associate professor of piano pedagogy at Oberlin Conservatory, played a leading role in the introduction of Suzuki method training to campus over a career that spanned from 1971 to 1993.

Stacy died February 16, 2017, at age 87.

In 1972—Stacy’s first full year at Oberlin—she established a children’s Suzuki program for piano that was the only one of its kind in northeast Ohio, making Stacy and her colleagues destination teachers among parents throughout the region.

The Suzuki method, developed in the mid-20th century by Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki, grew out of the principle that music can be learned in much the same way that native language is learned. The method was introduced to Oberlin in 1958 during a visit by Suzuki; soon after, the conservatory became a pioneer in teaching Suzuki method for violin.

Stacy devoted a 1978 sabbatical to studying with Suzuki and Haruko Kataoka in Matsumoto, Japan. She became a consultant and teacher-trainer for the Suzuki Association of the Americas, and for many years she presented on the topic at conferences of the Music Teachers National Association and other groups.

Joanne Erwin joined the music education faculty at Oberlin in 1992—one year before Stacy’s retirement. She moved into the same neighborhood, and the two became close friends.

“She was so caring and so gracious, and she welcomed me as a new female faculty member, and that meant a lot to me,” says Erwin, who will retire from Oberlin this spring after a 25-year career. “Our areas of teaching were very similar, so I appreciated her support and her guidance in learning Oberlin’s background with Suzuki.”

Born in Arkansas in 1929, Stacy earned bachelor of music education and master of music degrees from Louisiana State University. She taught piano in Dallas schools before transitioning to college teaching with stints at Berea College in Kentucky, the University of Kansas, and Kent State University. From an early age, “I knew I was a teacher, not a performer,” she told the Oberlin Observer upon her retirement in 1993. At Oberlin, she also held various leadership roles in the honorary music society Pi Kappa Lambda.

A longtime member of First Church of Oberlin, Stacy volunteered for Meals on Wheels and the Oberlin Public Library, and she enjoyed walking, reading, and travel. Since 2002, she was a resident of Kendal at Oberlin, where she counted among her friends Howard Hatton, a former voice professor at the conservatory. Hatton, now 99, sang The Lord’s Prayer at Stacy’s memorial service at First Church.

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