Dr. Damjana Bratuz
Home Page < Tributes < Bratuz Bash

Bonnie Shewan Burroughs (B.MUSIC HONOURS, 1971):

Bonnie Shewan Burroughs

A Memoir of the Teacher Who has most Strongly Influenced Me:

I first laid eyes on this vibrant, beautiful woman with a strange accent in 1967, when by some strange and wonderful happenchance, someone else wished to transfer out of her class and I was to take her place. I became a lifelong student of Dr. Bratuz's at that moment, but the scope and impact took years to register!
"Our aim," she says, "is to sharpen our ear and enrich our vocabulary, not in order to 'judge' but in order to acquire greater knowledge and with it to come nearer to the work of art." Elsewhere she writes, "the quality of the result depends on the quantity of skills and images one has absorbed, stored, assimilated… is above all necessary to be receptive."

I loved hearing the story of the three stonecutters; possibly because my own great-grandfather was a stonecutter for the Parliament buildings in London, England. They were doing the same things, but to one it meant just cutting stones, the other earning his bread, but to the third building a cathedral. Dr. Bratuz continued, "similarly, some people hear sounds, others emotions, others still the art – the combination of craftsmanship and vision – in a musical work, or in its performance. The music presents us with a crystallization of the so-called feelings, which we must detect and decode according to certain musical symbols which belong to a school or to a composer. We must acquire a historical perspective which can enable us not to superimpose, say, on Schubert, the psychological world of Schumann. It would be like adding to Raphael a few impressionistic strokes, because 'we feel it so'……Only by familiarizing ourselves with the cultural world which nourished a composer can we hope to gain sufficient insight into his work. We need to read great literature, familiarize ourselves with great art, in order to expand and deepen our sensitivity."

In other words, over twenty years ago, teaching piano, Dr. Bratuz was espousing INTEGRATION! We were to read, study and absorb the poets, writers and artists of the time, reading their biographies and their letters, and of course studying to gain an historical, geographic and political perspective, not to mention scientific exploration and the interaction with other composers of the day.
In a Master Class, she would let us hear two readings of a portion of Shakespeare to explain the concept of unity among other things. One was a beautiful, insightful and faithful interpretation of the text which illuminated the depth and meaning within the art; the other an example of an actor with many skills but the reading did not illuminate the text but only used it as a vehicle for self-display. It was an extremely vivid way of presenting the importance of understanding structure, musical grammar, syntax, cadence, and respecting the individual composer's use of language.

Another quote from Dr. Bratuz is, "only in contact with great thoughts can one learn to produce some oneself." A Whole Language advocate over twenty years ago!

However, my most vivid memories are her demonstrations during lessons, watching her hands, listening to the sounds and particularly to her problem-solving skills or techniques. No matter what difficulty I brought to her, it was a tremendous learning experience to hear her articulate the stages of solutions with an infectious enthusiasm and great joy at the end. When I reflect upon that fact, I realize that I instinctively adopted that attitude to my lifelong learning; and for that, I am very grateful.

Back to Written Tributes


  Damjana Bratu TOP

new concept design - web design london, ontario