Eleanor’s Song—A Tribute to Our Founder
May 12, 1922 – Dec. 20, 2000
Eleanor Stanlis, founding director of The Music Academy and Suzuki program director, died as she lived, dedicated to her students and her chosen instrument, the violin. The day before she died she taught her regular schedule of students and during the prior month she had attended concerts by present and former students, who she reported to Music Academy director Martha Frantz, gave the “best ever performances” she heard in her experience with The Music Academy.
In the early 1960’s Eleanor Stanlis first learned about the Suzuki method when a Japanese teacher brought some of his students to the United States to play for the American Music Educators Association National Convention. Mrs. Stanlis, who lived in Texas at the time, immediately sent to Japan for all available materials.
It was impossible to obtain Suzuki teacher training in the 1960’s or 1970’s unless one went to Japan. After moving to Illinois in 1972, Mrs. Stanlis traveled to Arlington Heights to observe the teaching of Betty Haag, who had been to Japan to study with Dr. Suzuki. Later she spent several summers attending pedagogy classes at the Suzuki Institute at Stevens Point, Wisconsin. She ultimately traveled to Japan to study with Dr. Suzuki and became one of the pioneer certified Suzuki Teacher Trainers in the United States.
In 1974, Mrs. Stanlis recruited a group of four children of her friends in Rockford, Illinois. Not sure that she would be successful at teaching three to five-year-olds, Mrs. Stanlis agreed to teach them for six months without charging a fee. Payment would begin after the evaluation period if they continued with their lessons. When she had about 30 students she decided to train another teacher. The group, then known as Suzuki Players of Rockford, met in her home studio.
Mrs. Stanlis was also teaching in the Music Department of Rockford College at that time. Walter Whipple of the Rockford College Music Department and Eleanor Stanlis made a proposal to the College, and the College agreed to sponsor a new community school of music. Consequently in 1985, the Music Academy of Rockford College opened, and viola, cello and piano students were added to the violin program.
The Music Academy has grown to employ 25 artist faculty members. In keeping with Mrs. Stanlis’ guiding principles, faculty members are chosen for excellence in performance and excellence as educators. Each teacher ascribes to an educational philosophy rooted in the Suzuki philosophy: every child can. Our educators remain committed to helping young people succeed in music and in life.
On March 30, 2003, a special benefit concert honoring Eleanor Stanlis and commemorating her work in our community was held at Rockford’s Coronado Performing Arts Center with the noted violinist, Cho-Liang Lin, Margaret Batjer (concert master of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and Eleanor’s daughter) and pianist Anne Epperson. The artists all donated their fees in honor of Mrs. Stanlis and her school. Thus began the work of The Music Academy Foundation, the fund-raising arm of The Music Academy.