Mother. Grandmother. Wife. Teacher of the Year. There are many names for this accomplished pianist, but she introduced herself to us with a humble smile as, “Susan.” Susan McDuffie recently moved into a lovely two-bedroom apartment at Carlyle Place in November. She’s only been in the community for a short time but has already been able to share her love for music with the residents by playing the piano and singing in the winter concert only weeks after her move-in date.
A Musical Start for Susan
Susan’s love for piano began at a very young age. By three, she learned she had the unique skill to play any song she heard “by ear”. Soon, Susan was exploring her musicality and attending regular community concerts. In high school, she was taking piano lessons with a young Oberlin Conservatory piano graduate. She attended Wesleyan College here in Macon, Georgia. There, she studied under Ralph Lawton, a concert pianist and former student of famous pianists Joseph Lhevinne and Madame Olga Samaroff. Many of her future teaching techniques stemmed from the lessons she received from Ralph. Susan also learned the Robyn method during her pedagogy study from professor Gladys Pinkston. Both of these professors helped round out her technical and musical skills, preparing her for a long and successful career in piano.
After completing her undergraduate studies, Susan studied at the highly regarded American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. After completing her studies, she played performed as a solo pianist with the Macon Symphony Orchestra. She also served for many years as the organist and music director for First Presbyterian Church, Vineville Presbyterian Church and Christ Episcopal Church. She taught for many years at her alma mater but now teaches private lessons from her home.
Sharing Her Art with Her Students
In 2016, the Georgia Music Teachers Association named her the Teacher of the Year, and the following year, she won the national title. Susan speaks highly of all her piano students, many of whom went on to have successful careers in music. Two of her most successful students are her children. Susan’s son, Robert McDuffie, found his musical talent in violin. He studied at Julliard School in New York City and has performed as a soloist in major orchestras in countries, including the United States, Germany, Italy, Australia and East Asia. Her daughter, Margery McDuffie Whatley, followed in her mother’s pianist footsteps and has performed coast to coast as a solo pianist in major American orchestras. Margery works as a piano teacher just like her mother and leads outreach programs to make music accessible to anyone who desires to play.
Susan also spoke with adoration for her other two children, her eight grandchildren, and her husband, Bill, who passed a few years ago. Her children made the initial suggestion for her to move to Carlyle Place, and they visit her often. She told us with a laugh, “They tell me every time they visit, ‘Mama, you picked out the right place.'”
In Tune with Carlyle Place
Now, Susan continues to teach private piano lessons from the music room in her apartment. One of her students is the granddaughter of another resident, and occasionally after her lessons with Susan, she plays piano in the lobby for her grandmother and passing residents. “Music connects me to many new people,” Susan shared. “It’s connected me to big people in music, and it’s connected me to some of my neighbors here.” She’s even met another resident who plays piano, and they’ve related through music.
Carlyle Place encourages residents with hobbies and interests to share them with the community, and Susan has big plans to share her music with her neighbors. “Music helps keep me young, and I still have the ability and opportunity to perform. I’ve spoken to some of my friends about performing here.” Susan performed at shows for the community before moving into her apartment, so it’s a full-circle moment for her to bring her talent back to Carlyle Place.
You may not be able to catch Susan playing piano at the Macon Symphony Orchestra anymore, but as a resident of Carlyle Place, you may be able to hear her tickling piano keys at community events or even in the lobby.
If you’re interested in delving into music or another new skill, Carlyle Place offers a limitless range of lectures and classes led by talented enthusiasts and trained professionals. Our community is ideal for spending your retirement years learning new talents and honing old ones. Learn more about cultural and recreational learning opportunities available to residents and contact us to learn how to make Carlyle Place your home.
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