Funeral held for Daisy Sweeney, teacher to Oliver Jones, Oscar Peterson
Oliver Jones says he didn’t get his first lesson from Daisy Sweeney at the piano. “She was my Sunday school teacher.”
Others like Trevor Payne of the Jubilation Gospel Choir points out that as a teacher, she cared deeply about people.
“Her famous words were, are you OK?”
That was a common thread in the tributes that poured forth in memory of Daisy Sweeney at her funeral at Union United Church, Saturday morning.
She was a maid, who saved her earnings to study music at McGill University, and at 25 cents a lesson, taught what she learned to scores of kids in her Saint-Henri neighbourhood.
WATCH: Daisy Sweeney, piano teacher to jazz greats, dies at 97
Among her pupils were famous jazz musicians Oscar Peterson, and his childhood friend Oliver Jones.
Jones said: “She has left a mark on so many of us. I will always think of her, and it will lead me to be a better person.”
Something else that people remembered – her non-tolerance for foolishness, and the belief in earning what you get.
Lessons which, aside from the music, she was famous for passing on to her students.
Once when her brother Oscar called to tell her of another honorary doctorate he had received, she reminded him of that, says daughter Sylvia Sweeney.
“She sucked her teeth. She said, ‘you don’t get given a doctorate – you work for it!'”
When she was offered her own honorary doctorate from Laurentian University in 1987, she delivered the same message, her daughter recalled.
“She got up to the stage and she looked at everyone and she said, ‘I don’t believe in honorary doctorates!'”
But she accepted the award anyway, as a recognition of the work she had left to do.
Among her many other achievements was the co-founding of what has become the internationally renowned Jubilation Gospel Choir, alongside Trevor Payne.
“I started my gospel career here [at Union United] through Daisy Sweeney, at her insistence,” Payne said. “She’s always been by my side, she has always been my mentor.”
Sweeney has managed yet another achievement, as a woman of colour.
A street in Montreal will be named in her honour, anchoring her memory for all to see.
“That dedication, that inspiration and that discipline shapes up what Montreal is all about,” Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said.
But for those who knew her, the memory of who she was and what she meant, is anchored already, in their hearts.
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