Daisy Sweeney, who taught musical greats Oliver Jones, Oscar Peterson, dies at 97
The Canadian Press
August 14, 2017
10:02 AM EDT
MONTREAL — Daisy Sweeney, the woman credited with being the first teacher of Canadian musical talents like her brother Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones, has died at the age of 97.
Sylvia Sweeney says her mother’s impact on numerous lives went beyond the musical icons who credit her with their success and Montreal’s black community.
“One of her greatest accomplishments: she broke the colour barrier by taking students she’d taught for 25 cents a lesson on Saturdays and took them to preparatorial exams at McGill University, to competitions,” Sweeney said Monday.
“She changed the picture of what was possible — not in the minds of those children — but in the minds of those who were adjudicating them.”
Daisy Sweeney, who died in Montreal on Friday, was born Daisy Elitha Peterson in 1920 in Montreal’s Saint-Henri district.
“She was born in Montreal in an era where it was fairly difficult for anyone to have a vision that was black, about being more than the opportunities before them which was railway work and domestic work,” her daughter said.
Even though black men and women were pigeon-holed into those vocations, she viewed it as a test and paid her way through a music degree at McGill University.
Meanwhile, she was enlisted by her father to train the other Peterson kids, among others.
“What she tried to do was to look at the children around her and have them see the potential in themselves,” Sweeney said of her mother’s teaching philosophy.
“She was always the one they all remembered because she took it beyond the piano bench, it was right into their lives, into their school, into their social (life).”
Sweeney said her mother had a philosophy of exceeding expectations — that was her legacy and what the mother of eight instilled in her own kids.
“My mom didn’t care whether it was piano, or any instrument or any vocation, she just always said ‘never leave anything, go to something’,” said Sweeney.
Although she wasn’t able to play music in the last years of her life, she still very much enjoyed music.
“The very last photo taken of her, my sister had her with her earphones on listening to Oscar play,” said Sweeney.
“She went out the way she lived, with music.”
A public service is planned for Saturday morning at Union United Church in Montreal.