Nora Arias Schmied
Nora Arias Schmied, a pianist, has been an active performer and teacher for over eighty years, several of which she taught in college programs in Chile and the U.S. In the last few decades she has maintained a private studio where she teaches piano using the Suzuki approach.
Nora was born and raised in Chile, the oldest of six children of Emeterio and Catalina Block Arias, both of whom were teachers and amateur musicians. Her mother, a 1913 graduate of the Seventh-day Adventist college in Argentina, was a pianist and singer who taught piano, organ, and voice. Her father, a 1913 graduate of the SDA college in Chile when it was located in Pua, played violin, piano, flute, cello, and zither. Music was an important activity in their home and there were frequent “musicales” involving family and friends.
Her mother died from complications following delivery of her sixth child, a girl, when Nora was eleven, and she played the role of mother until her father married two-and-a-half years later. Her stepmother, Aeschli Mann, was a pianist who taught the children from Emeterio’s first marriage and two from her marriage with him. Nora had started piano lessons at age five from her mother and, following her death, studied privately with two teachers. She particularly enjoyed her studies in 6th grade with Juan Sepúlveda. She enrolled at the National Music Conservatory in Santiago, where she studied with Herminia Raccagni, a senior student-teacher under Rosita Renard, an acclaimed pianist and pedagogue. Raccagni would later become director of the conservatory.
The two children from the second marriage, Hellmuth and Werner, also later attended and graduated from the music conservatory and then pursued careers in medicine and journalism, respectively, as well as in music. Helmuth, a pianist, organist, and string player was organist in one of the Lutheran churches in Santiago for 34 years. Werner, a pianist and string player, is a choir director.
Nora received all of education in SDA schools except for her training at the conservatory. She graduated from Chillán Academy in 1937 and from Chile Junior College, now Chile Adventist University, in 1939. While in the academy she taught piano during her last two years, enabling her to pay for most of her school expenses. That experience led to a decision to pursue a career as a pianist and teacher.
A year after she graduated from CJC she married Jose Daniel Schmied, an amateur musician who played violin and viola and conducted choral groups. They both taught at CJC until 1950, when they were encouraged by former CJC principal Carl D. Christensen to attend Walla Walla College, where he had become a member of the theology department. Christensen was aware of Jose’s interest in becoming an engineer and at that time WWC was the only SDA college offering a degree in that area.
Nora graduated in 1953 with a degree in music education and he in 1954 with a degree in architectural engineering. She studied piano with both Stanley E. Walker and Sterling Gernet and in the year following completion of her music degree took a class in library science. At the time of her graduation she was listed as one of seven seniors who had achieved outstanding scholarship while at WWC. Although she had taught music theory and appreciation for six years in grades 7-12 while at CJC and given piano lessons while attending WWC as a student, she would not teach in a school system after graduating from WWC but would be active as an accompanist and soloist, teach piano privately and become involved with church music as a pianist and music coordinator.
Following graduation from WWC, The Schmieds moved to Helena, Montana, where he worked as an engineer and she worked as a secretary and assistant to the Purchasing Agent at Caird Engineering Works for thirteen years. They moved to Phoenix, Arizona, in 1968 where they lived for the next 21 years before moving to Mayer, Arizona. It was during this time that she became aware of the Suzuki method for teaching piano, a life-changing experience for her, one about which she would recently write:
One afternoon after moving to Arizona, I was watching the early evening news. It was announced that after the next break for commercials a surprise treat awaited which would delight music lovers. And, indeed it was.
Two 5-year-old little girls appeared on stage, bowed to the studio and television audience then sat at two pianos, looked smiling at each other and then happily started playing in perfect unison the “Twinkle Variations” with such perfect technique, beautiful tone, and phrasing! I was amazed! Some other pieces from Book 1 of the Suzuki Repertoire followed, all played in the same perfect way.
At the end of the TV program we were told that for information about the Suzuki program, we should write to the Suzuki Association of the Americas. This I did without delay. I subscribed to the Suzuki Journal, Suzuki World, bought books, attended seminars and institutes, observed master classes, and Suzuki concerts to learn more. As I read the book written by Dr. Suzuki, Nurtured by Love, many times with tears blocking my vision, I was converted, I was hooked, I had caught the Suzuki Spirit!
Since Jose died in 1998 at age 83, having retired earlier after serving for thirteen years as an engineer for the Department of Transportation in Arizona, she has taught Suzuki Piano without charge to children and adults in her church and community. She regards it as both her “outreach ministry” and therapy over the loss of her husband.
Sources: Information provided by Nora Schmied, June 2014; Note from Nora Schmied, 2015; Completed IAMA biographical questionnaire with extensive accompanying notes, 24 June 2016; obituary for Omar Arias (older brother), www.cpcleburne.com, January 2015; Obituary for Jose Daniel Schmied, The Daily Courier, Yavapai County, AZ, 15 January 1998, 3; Social Security Death Records, Ancestry. Com.