Alfred Garson | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Alfred Garson

Alfred Henrik Garson, violinist, teacher, composer, author (born 22 October 1924 in Berthier-en-Haut (now Berthierville), QC; died 23 May 2022 in Montreal, QC). Violin teacher Alfred Garson was one of Canada’s leading advocates of the Suzuki method. He studied with Shinichi Suzuki at the Eastman School of Music and was named director of the Suzuki program at McGill University in 1970. He is the author of The Suzuki Teaching Method and wrote widely on the subject.

During his childhood, Garson toured as a violinist in Europe and in South America. Two scholarships (a Rhodes in 1945 and a Beit in 1947) enabled him to attend Cape Town University, where he studied with Albert Coates (conducting), Editha Braham (violin), and Lili Kraus (chamber music), among others. He also took courses in anthropology and African languages and graduated with a B MUS in 1950. He won the 1948 and 1950 South African Broadcasting Corporation composition prizes for, respectively, his Suite for orchestra and his Song and Dance for Orchestra. He also won the Myer Levinssohn prize in 1949 for The Witch, a ballet for marionettes, narrator, and chamber orchestra. He obtained his master’s degree in 1954 and was orchestrator and arranger for the Cape Town municipal orchestra from 1949 to 1955.

Having settled in London in 1956, Garson studied composition with Matyas Seiber and musicology with Sir Jack Westrup. A Gabriel d'Honot scholarship in 1958 enabled him to pursue his research in medieval music and literature at the monastery of Montserrat in Spain.

Garson returned to Montreal in 1963. In 1965, he became one of the first Canadian advocates of the Suzuki violin method. He studied 1965–72 with Shinichi Suzuki at the ESM, Rochester, NY, as well as in Montreal and in Japan. He was named director of the Suzuki program at McGill University in 1970 and was a lecturer or visiting professor at several universities in Europe, Canada, and the USA, including the University of Wisconsin and Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY. He is the author of The Suzuki Teaching Method (Boosey & Hawkes 1971) and wrote many articles on the subject for various periodicals, including the Canadian Music Educator (which he edited 1969–73). He often appeared on radio and TV (CBC, NBC, BBC).

Garson's 1970 doctoral thesis was entitled From Creation to Appreciation: An Approach to the Appreciation of Contemporary Music by Young Children Through a Creative Method. From 1965 to 1967, he was president of the Éducateurs de musique du Québec (later the QMEA), and of the Canadian String Teachers Association from 1973 to 1974. He was also a member of several associations.

Garson's compositions include several ballets (one in collaboration with the choreographer John Cranko); a Mass for four soloists, mixed choir, and orchestra (1950); chamber music, songs, film and stage music; and choral and instrumental works for children. In 1975, the South African Eisteddfod instituted the Alfred Garson scholarship.

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