Swingle Memorial Award

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Peggy Swingle Lifetime Achievement Award

Margaret “Peggy” Swingle (1947-2021) was a deeply committed Suzuki Method piano teacher and teacher trainer who dedicated more than 40 years to the Suzuki movement through teaching, training teachers and writing extensively about teaching. 

With generous donations from local teachers, former students and her family, SAWS has established an annual award designed to honor a Washington Suzuki teacher whose work, over many years, has exemplified the Suzuki values that Peggy held dear:

  • Lifelong dedication to teaching according to the principles of the Suzuki method.
  • Commitment to promoting parent education.
  • Lifelong pursuit of musical and personal growth through study, practice, workshops, and conferences.
  • Demonstration of leadership through participation in local, SAWS and/or SAA projects.

We are happy to announce that the winners of this year’s Swingle Award are Barbara Balatero, Katrin St. Clair and Mihoko Hirata.

Thank you to those SAWS teachers who took time to nominate these remarkable teachers. We are very excited to be able to honor their hard work with this award, thanks to the generous donations by the family, colleagues and students of Peggy Swingle. Please read about their work below. Winners will receive a certificate and check for $1,000. We will honor them at our fall festival as well.

Barbara Balatero is a Suzuki cello teacher and teacher trainer. She has shown a lifetime of commitment to the Washington State Suzuki community and to the growth of Suzuki teaching in Latin America.  After leaving university, Barbara served in the US Peace Corps in El Salvador, starting the first Suzuki program in Central America, which is going strong today. As an SAA trainer she has helped train teachers in Latin America, often at a reduced rate to make training opportunities more accessible. She also supports the programs she visits with donations of instruments and music supplies. Barbara served the Washington State Suzuki community as director of the Japan-Seattle Suzuki Institute for over 20 years. After her tenure as JSSI director, she served as president of the board that oversees JSSI for over 10 years. She fervently believes that having a wide swath of families and teachers attend workshops raises the level of playing and teaching in the community.Furthermore Barbara displays a commitment to lifelong learning through retaking training courses, consistently attending SAWS workshops and SAA conferences, and by taking cello lessons weekly herself; presenting solo recitals of very difficult repertoire nearly yearly for the last 20+ years.

Katrin St. Clair is a Suzuki violin teacher in Puyallup and Olympia. She has shown a deep commitment to Suzuki values, parent training, and to growing and strengthening Suzuki education in Washington State. She embodies Suzuki’s philosophy of “character first, ability second” and aims to instill not just musical skills but also strong moral values in her students. Katrin leads a large private studio as well as overseeing 8 other teachers at a large Suzuki program in a private school in Olympia, where she has mentored 4 young teachers. Katrin has worked to organize and promote various large Suzuki events, building both the teaching community and family engagement. She writes for the SAA Journal and has two written two children’s books to support beginning Suzuki families.

Mihoko Hirata, a native of Matsumoto, Japan, received her teacher training under the personal guidance of Dr. Suzuki. In 1967 she was selected by Dr. Suzuki to be one of the first teachers to introduce the Suzuki method in the United States. Mrs. Hirata received a “Creating a Learning Community Award” from the Suzuki Association of the Americas, recognizing her as the “Spirit of Suzuki in the Northwest.” She is also a member of the National Registry of Suzuki Violin Teacher Trainers. Together with her late husband, Yoshihiko (Paul) Hirata, they created one of the pre-imminent violin studios in the Seattle area, one which had a tremendous impact on both their students and the violin teaching community. Mrs. Hirata has also presented workshops and master classes throughout the United States and around the world.  She is a quiet but constant presence at SAWS events and, despite her advancing years, continues to be an active teacher and serves as a board member of the Suzuki Education and Research Association (SERA). She has never wavered from her devotion to Suzuki’s philosophy and teaching, consistently demonstrating love, humor, and warmth towards her students while upholding high standards and expectations.

Nomination Process:

SAWS member teachers are invited to submit a letter of recommendation for a Suzuki teacher (on any instrument) they feel deserves this award. In your letter, please speak to how you know the teacher you are recommending, and how their work, over their Suzuki teaching career, has exemplified the values stated above. Honorees should be long-term residents of Washington State and have current, or past membership with SAWS. They can be currently teaching or retired but should be at least 25 years into their teaching career. 

One to three awards of $1,000 each will be awarded annually by SAWS (the number will depend on nominations). The recipients will be chosen by a small committee of SAWS teachers, based on the letters of nomination.

Nominations are due by June 1st. 

The committee will make their decision by June 1st and the recipients will be notified and receive their award in the form of a check by June 30th. Honorees will be announced in an email to the membership, on our website, and again at a presentation at the Fall Festival and/or Piano Graduation recital. 

Click here to go to submit your nomination letter.

You will also be asked to include:

  • Your phone number, so that we can ask follow-up questions, if needed,
  • the contact info of the teacher your are recommending (if known),
  • Names and phone number or email for any colleagues who could provide a secondary recommendation, or more details about the nominee’s experience.


About Peggy Swingle

Margaret “Peggy” Dvonch was born in New York, New York to Frederick and Mara Dvonch.  She graduated from Carleton College in 1968 and married Larry Swingle.  She moved to Bainbridge Island in 1975 and made her home there for the rest of her life.  Over her 40-year career as a Suzuki piano teacher she taught hundreds of students in Seattle, on Bainbridge Island, and internationally.  She was active in the Suzuki Association of Washington State, training other teachers, serving in leadership roles, and founding a statewide program to recognize students’ achievements.  Her second passion was training her sheltie dogs in agility and she was very active in the statewide agility community.  Peggy passed away peacefully after a long illness, surrounded by loving family.  Peggy’s wife, Marilyn Miller, preceded her in passing in July 2021.  Peggy leaves behind three children and four grandchildren as well as countless Suzuki piano students and teachers who will carry on her legacy of music.