A Tribute to Our Founder

Eleanor StanlisEleanor’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 had heard in Music Academy's 15-year history.

In the early 1960s, our founder, Eleanor Stanlis, first learned about the Suzuki method when the Japanese teacher brought some of his students to the United States to play for the American Music Educator's Association National Convention. Mrs. Stanlis, who lived in Texas, immediately sent to Japan for all available materials.

It was impossible to obtain Suzuki teacher training in the 1960s or 1970s unless one went to Japan. After moving to Illinois in 1971, 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, Wis. She ultimately traveled to Japan to study with Dr. Suzuki and became a certified Suzuki teacher trainer.

During 1974, Mrs. Stanlis recruited a group of four children of her friends in Rockford, Ill. 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, Mrs. Stanlis decided to train another teacher. The group, then known as the 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 became a part of the program.

In the beginning, most private lessons were taken in the teachers' homes and in the Clark Arts Center on the Rockford College campus. The Music Academy moved into Svenson Hall (a former dormitory of the College) in the fall of 1994, where there teachers have teaching studios. Clark Arts Center and Emmanuel Lutheran Church are used for Saturday classes and performances.

Music Academy presently has 23 teachers giving excellent instruction in the following curricula: strings, piano, flute, early childhood music, and Music As Pleasure for adults. The Rockford College Music Academy currently provides instruction, yearly, to over 700 students of all ages. In 1992, the Music Academy added summer music camps to the curriculum.

A listing of some of Eleanor Stanlis’s musical awards in the past decade in Rockford, Ill., follows. In 1993, Eleanor Stanlis received the Mendelssohn Club Star Excellence Award. Other recent awards include the Blanche Ellis Star Award for the Arts at the YWCA Leader Luncheon in 1997; Rockford Rotary Club Service Above Self Award also in 1997; the Mayor's Arts Award by the Rockford Area Arts Council in 1998; and the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Rockford Area Music Industry in 1999. Eleanor Stanlis was a graduate of Eastman School of Music with a B.M. with Highest Distinction and she earned a M.M. from Hardin-Simmons University in Texas. Her lifetime professional, musical experience is extensive. She is survived by her husband, Peter Stanlis, Distinguished Professor of Humanities, Emeritus, Rockford College, and three adult children. The Music Academy as an institution is a memorial to Eleanor’s life and is one that is worthy of the dedication, persistence, and integrity of its founder.

On March 30, 2003, a special benefit concert honoring Eleanor Stanlis was held at Rockford's Coronado Theatre with the noted violinist, Cho-Liang Lin, Margaret Batjer (Eleanor’s daughter and concert master of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra) and pianist Anne Epperson. The artists donated their fees in honor of Eleanor and her school.