Violinst shares loves of music for decades
Sister Mary Ricardo DiSanto plays an Irish jig that one of her students played at her grandmother's funeral. DiSanto, 87, still gives violin lessons to about 20 students and sometimes plays in services at her church. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Notes on the teacher
Education: Bachelor’s degree in violin in 1956 and a master’s degree in 1958 from the Chicago Conservatory
Honors: Nazareth Academy Hall of Fame in 2010; honorary life member of the Zoltan Kodaly Academy and Institute for promoting musical arts and sciences
Favorite composer: “I like them all.”
Updated: March 22, 2013 6:16AM
LAGRANGE PARK — Sister Mary Ricardo DiSanto, 87, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph since Feb. 6, 1944, began teaching the Suzuki method to violin students in 1970. A framed snapshot of DiSanto with Japanese founder Shinichi Suzuki taken at a Wisconsin workshop sits on top of the piano in her studio.
Q. How did you get started playing violin?
A. I heard a trio playing “Tango of the Roses,” and decided I wanted to learn that. I started when I was 10 years old while growing up on the South Side in the Roseland neighborhood. My dad wasn’t musical, but he could tell when I made a mistake. My mother was always busy cooking.
Q. What was your musical education like?
A. I had a music scholarship to Mercy High School, and then I entered the congregation. Then I studied at the Chicago Conservatory while I was teaching school at St. Barbara’s in Brookfield, St. Francis Xavier in La Grange and a former boarding school, Our Lady of Bethlehem. I didn’t much time to practice.
Q. Why did you enter religious life?
A. I don’t really know, but since I was young, I wanted to be a sister. I didn’t know much about what I’d be doing, maybe prayer and household duties. Then one day I was told I was going on to study the violin.
Q. How did you get started teaching the Suzuki method?
A. I taught the stringed instruments, violin, viola, cello and bass, at Nazareth Academy from 1960 to 1970. We tried to get an orchestra going, but everybody coming in had wind instruments. I decided to leave and teach the Suzuki method to younger students. After I was trained I had as many as 80 students for years.
Q. How does Suzuki differ from traditional methods, and why do you like it?
A. Students can start as young as 2 or 3, and they have to listen to a recording every day. Their mother also helps them practice. Then when they’re older and can read their ABCs, I teach them to read the lines and the spaces EGBDF and FACE. They definitely learn notes. Good listening is very important.
Q. Do you hear from former students?
A. I don’t do email, but they call and write. One has gone on to be the second principal violinist for the symphony orchestra of Bergen, Norway, and her sister is with the symphony in Minneapolis.
Q. Do you have any difficulties playing, like arthritis?
A. No, my hands are fine. I did break my little finger a while ago. It’s a little crooked and slips a little, but I keep an eye on it. I may have a little arthritis in my right shoulder, which is bothering me a little.
Q. Any plans to retire?
A. I’m not going to retire unless the Lord makes it so I can’t play or walk.