Pamela Newton Smith '69

Pamela Newton Smith smiles for the camera.

Distinguished Achievment in a Profession 

Alumnae Award winner during Alumnae Weekend 2019

“We are the music-makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams,” wrote British poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy, and without a doubt, Pamela Newton Smith has been a gifted music maker and music teacher throughout her life.  

Arriving at Wesleyan in the fall of 1965 from Savannah, Pam was regarded by her classmates as the premier pianist, for she could memorize an entire piece of music before she actually learned to play it. Using this method, Pam could then concentrate on what the composer was trying to convey through the music rather than trying to learn the notes correctly while attempting to interpret the piece. Her long practice hours paid off, and she learned how to pull incredible power and volume from the piano. Inspired by her own teacher, Naegeli von Bergen Metcalf, Pam began teaching piano while enrolled at Wesleyan and has continued to teach others to play for fifty years.  

In 1980, Pam immersed herself in the Suzuki Piano method, a music program designed to teach children music as if they were being immersed in their native language. Children learning to play piano with the Suzuki method are taught “by ear” first, just like learning their mother tongue. Sight reading music is not taught until after the child is successful with reproducing music by ear. Early the next year, Pam received a call from the mother of a handicapped child who wanted her five-year-old Cyndie to study piano. With very little vision, limited ability to speak, but with an amazing aptitude for rhythm and imitation, Cyndie developed a wonderful sense of pitch recognition with Pam’s training, and together they learned to communicate with each other through music. Trusting the success of the Suzuki system, Pam quickly joined others in co-founding the Atlanta Suzuki Piano Association, serving as president, board member, and event director. She was invited to Japan on three occasions to study the Suzuki method at the Talent Education Institute with Dr. Haruko Kataoka who translated Dr. Suzuki’s methods to piano. Pam and Dr. Kataoka became life-long friends and she was able to organize Friendship Concerts featuring students from Japan while hosting and organizing homestays for Japanese teachers and students with local Atlanta Suzuki Piano families. Pam showcased her own students in Japan and across the United States, arranging for them to perform in a cultural exchange of music while she advanced the work of the Suzuki Association through educational events and workshops. She invited special pianists to play, highlighted multiple pianos concerts, and held Graduation Concerts twice a year at Spivey Hall in Clayton County, GA.  

For fifty years, Pam has devoted herself to the love of music and has instilled in her students a natural curiosity to explore all genres of music. She often taught two hundred students every year, giving them a chance to expand their appreciation of music and to develop their abilities to perform confidently. As an author, Pam has published articles for Suzuki World, Piano Basics, and Nurture, and has written three novels. She was a finalist for the William Faulkner Award in New Orleans in 2018.

For her personal commitment to providing children of all cultures, ages, handicaps, and degrees of motivation the opportunities to learn to love and appreciate music, the Wesleyan College Alumnae Association proudly presents to Pamela Newton Smith the award for Distinguished Achievement in a Profession.

   
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