by Helen Martin
Warm congratulations to Daphne Stevens, whose lifetime of playing at public events, organising community musical events and innovative teaching has resulted in her being awarded a Queen’s Service Medal for her services to music. The award ceremony is to be held at Auckland’s Government House in August.
Daphne came from a musical family and learned to play several instruments as a young girl. Her parents encouraged her to perform in public and to play the organ for church services from the age of nine, a service she provided for many years at churches in Waitoki and Kaukapakapa, stopping only relatively recently when prevented by failing eyesight. Having left school at 13, when she was 15 Daphne began teaching piano at Verona Farm, Waitoki, where she lived with her sister Ina and her parents Tom and Florence, before progressing to teaching in schools at Kaukapakapa, Helensville, Orewa and Dairy Flat.
In her twenties, Daphne travelled regularly to Auckland to study for her music teaching qualifications, eventually being introduced to the inspirational ideas of Dr Suzuki, the skilled Japanese violinist who saw music as a way of bringing beauty into children’s lives. It became recognised that “Suzuki is more than music.” The music curriculum and teaching philosophy that characterised the Suzuki Method became Daphne’s focus, leading her to study and teach it for the rest of her long career. Becoming known as an inspirational teacher (she gained a teaching qualification in the 1980s), she particularly enjoyed teaching students with learning disabilities and seeing them flourish. Over the years she met many proponents of the method, attended and spoke at workshops and conferences at home and overseas and in 2013 became a life member of the Suzuki Institute.
As a motivator and organiser her contribution to local communities has been immense. Now 91 and living in Orewa, Daphne is still in contact with many of her former students, several of whom have gone on to successful careers in music. She says she loved teaching in Helensville and is now establishing a music scholarship to help young learners on their way.