Guest Book

If you can recommend anyone who studied with Tony Dawson, or knew him as a friend, please let them know about this site. Let us continue to sing the praises of great music teachers.

To sign Tony Dawson's Guest Book,
please email Julian Fisher at

I came upon the "Tribute to Anthony Dawson" web site, and was very moved to see images of Dr. Dawson and the other memories posted there. I studied with Dr. Dawson in the late 1970s (I am a flutist) and went through all the harmony, theory, and composition exams with him, required for my ARCT. I loved him, loved his humour, loved his encouragement of my compositions, have used his teaching techniques with my own students over the years, and have quoted him many times over the years! Here are a few things I remember:

— "Oh, there's an A, just what we need in this chord you have here!" (having heard a car outside beep an A!)

— "This is what you need to know to write good music, and this is what you need to know to pass the exam. Not always the same thing."

— "You learn the rules in order to know how to break them."

I had a fairly large though elegant german shepherd dog, Cassie, that I used to bring to lessons sometimes! She used to sit under the table at our knees, very very quietly all through the lesson. More than once, when I would stand up at the end of the lesson, and Cassie would leap up to my side, Dr. Dawson would let out a whoop because he had forgotten her! I always felt he loved the surprise!

Another memory: one Saturday I arrived at my lesson in a long black dress, with one rose pinned on my shoulder, because I had a wedding to attend right after the lesson. In my assignments, I had doubled the third in a few chords — and he told me "imagine you had worn roses all over your dress..." (and he patted his hands all over his jacket and knees, etc., to emphasize his point.. "rather than this one dramatic red rose! That would look ridiculous, just too much, wouldn't it?? It's the same if you overuse the thirds..." I have repeated this story to many of my younger students, and they think the idea of me with roses pinned all over me is dramatically funny. It still gets the point across!

Dr. Dawson and I played together at a number of events — in church, and at a wedding, and we did Bach and Handel sonatas at his house, one evening when he invited me to come to have dinner with him and his wife Janet. I can't remember where his daughter Jennifer was at that time, but I do remember how warm he was in expressing his love for them. About daughters, I remember him saying to me: "Remember, when you get married and have children, be sure to have girls; they are much more agreeable than the other sort." (I had one of the other sort, actually — he is a violinist now studying at Berklee College of Music, so the learning gets passed down the generations!)

My brother also studied with Dr. Dawson, before me, and my mother (who is also British, a cellist) met Dr. Dawson too. We all had a very very high opinion of and affection for him. I wish I could have been at this event to celebrate his unique blend of generosity, humility, high standards (I would never ever have showed up unprepared for one of his lessons — unthinkable!), his pursuit of excellence, respectfulness mixed with irreverence, and general love for life.

And by the way, he knew I read a lot, and recommended to me The Ha Ha, his sister Jennifer's first novel, which I read with a great deal of pleasure. Obviously a very talented family.

I still have every mimeographed sheet and every exercise I ever did with him. I always had the sense that someday, they ought to go into a book. He was a genius teacher.

With a full heart,
Tricia Snell
Portland, OR

Anthony Dawson's name came to my attention when my brother, Nigel, came across a piece Anthony wrote about our late father, Dr Bernard Rose.

We were both much taken by Anthony's description of our father's lecturing skills and touched by his words. In speaking with my 90-year old mother this afternoon, she has fond memories of Anthony. One story she tells is that Anthony was, certainly during his years at Oxford University, teetotal. His sporting passion was rowing and, after his boat had enjoyed some success in the rowing week described as "Eights week", he imbibed in some celebratory alcohol one evening. Arriving at his tutorial with my father the next morning Anthony, still somewhat the worse for wear, stumbled into my father's room, rather deliberately placed his piece of "work" on the table and challenged: "Now find some consecutive fifths in that!" It was, in fact, a blank piece of paper!

Sadly I never (knowingly) met Anthony Dawson (born in 1946!). However: I wanted you to know ... his memory lives on in our family.

Best regards

Graham Rose

Dr. Dawson was my music teacher and sometime house master when I was a student at St. Andrews College in 1970. I was fifteen at the time.

One Sunday when Dr. Dawson was on duty as housemaster, I climbed a tree on campus and then managed to fall out of it. When I returned to school after four days in hospital, Dr. Dawson approached me and said, "Edwards, the next time you need to fall out of a tree could you please not do it while I am on duty, and if you must do it when I am on duty could you please not do it while I am in my residence taking a tea break with my wife?"

An utterly charming and good-natured man, and one of very few teachers that I remember fondly.

Michael Sean Edwards

Hello, I was speaking with a classmate from St. Andrew's recently and it got me thinking about some of the wonderful characters I met during my time there. One of them was Anthony Dawson. A quick Google search and presto (!) I arrived at this site. We had nicknames for all the Masters and out of respect, I will not repeat Master Dawson's. This gentleman was the best music teacher I ever had and to this day I remember his lessons that Mozart's music comprises sheet music six feet wide and that half of J.S. Bach's music was lost in the mists of time. Every week, the students were invited to bring recordings of their choice for listening and discussion. This was in the late 60's and there was a lot of far out material in circulation. Someone brought Lothar and The Hand People's first LP, Lothar being a theremin. Master Dawson listened attentively while puffing his pipe. I do not remember his pronouncement, but it would have been well considered and respectful. This man was never negative. Thanks for the site!

Michael King, SAC 72, Vancouver

Thank-you so much for keeping the spirit of JAD alive and well. I intend to write my own piece for your guestbook very soon!

Jennifer (Dawson) McLaughlin, daughter of Tony Dawson

Martha Cunningham, Germany:

I am writing today because it is Tony's birthday. And I have two memories to share.

1. On July 27, 1981, I was working late at the Conservatory, and Tony and Janet came down to knock on Robert Dodson's door. He was handing some form or other in after a day of teaching. As always when he was surprised, his face lit up, his Cat-in-the-Hat cheeks beaming, and he removed his pipe. Martha! Oh, it's you! Then he proceeded to tell me that it was his birthday, and that it was a special one. He explained, while Janet watched with a big smile - she always looked at him so admiringly, I remember: "I was born in 19 — [big pause] — 27! On July — 27! I am now 54, which is 2 x — 27! and the year is 1981, which is 3 x — 27!" He was thrilled. But you always knew that behind his glee in such things there was a streak of imp that was on the one hand laughing at silliness on the other questioning, stoking his pipe-bowl and saying, "How very odd."

2. One time he and Janet came to my house for dinner. I drove them home, and on the way, they sat in the back seat and sang a cheerful ditty composed by Tony: "Who put the F, and the U, and the N, in 'funeral'?" It was very black, very bleak, and I only wish I could have thought of it without tears when I attended his memorial service.

I took two courses with Tony - Harmony 3 and 4 - and I am fondest of the first little dictation book from the grade 3 course, held up in the eaves of the Con, with Tony sweating away till he was drenched, yet still cheerfully hopping from piano bench to blackboard. For in that book I decided to write down every single musical reference he made/played. And it filled the entire book. I was stunned. It was the most enjoyable music course I ever took. How lucky we were.

With very best wishes, and deep appreciation for the memorial you have set up for Tony,

Martha Cunningham

Maria Molinari, Toronto:

I have the fondest memories of Tony. He easily changed the course of my life. When I first entered his class I didn't know the difference between a 7th and a leading note (this despite having passed grade 3 harmony!). I was utterly confused and filled with dread at the thought of another year of harmony. By the end of the first lesson the clouds had lifted and, buoyed by a renewed sense of optimism, I had a spring in my step. I could do this! This is not to say that I didn't have my moments. I remember being utterly delighted at finding an opportunity in one of my gr. V exercises to write not only 1 or 2 but 3 (!!!) augmented 6th chords in a row. Surely, this was going to inspire a reaction from Tony, and indeed it did: "Maria, this is like 3 vodkas straight up!" Not quite the reaction I was hoping for, but the humour was pure Tony Dawson. How could you not love a comment like that?

Years later, I wrote to him from LA after doing the film scoring program and he replied with the most delightful letter. He confessed that he had always wanted to try his hand at jingle writing and had enclosed a little ditty he had composed: "Who Put the Fun in Funerals?" for Bates & Dodds Funeral Parlours. Sheer genius. I still have it and aim to frame it in his memory. For if anyone could inject fun into a funeral, it would be Tony.

I imagine all of us who had the privilege of knowing Tony have wonderful, funny, warm memories like that. He was truly a special teacher and person. I will miss running into him and being entertained by his wit. The world is emptier for his departure.

Again, thank you for this testimonial page. It was touching to 'hear' his voice one last time if even from the far side of the 'abyss'.

Maiar Davies, Hamilton Ontario:

I was in Tony's choir at All Saints in Hamilton: I was his alto soloist there. I remember both him and Janet with great affection - they were splendid people. I have an old photo of Tony and Janet with baby Jennifer - probably in the early 60's.

I did not learn of his (and Janet's) deaths until earlier this week.

I will always have fond memories of him and Janet and of my time in All Saints choir.

Cynthia Timmons (Mule), Woodbridge:

I adored Dr. Dawson. He was so patient with my lack of theory skills. We keep in touch (usually at Christmas) until I heard of Janet's sickness. Every year at Christmas I would bring him pipe tobbaco and a bottle of sherry. Because he didn't drive I occasionally drove him home. I asked him why he didn't drive and he answered, "there are already enough maniacs on the road". Once he spilled some of his lite pipe tobbaco and we had to pull over because we could smell something buring. He jumped out and I spotted a buring hole in his trench coat. He just replied "Janet is going to kill me, oh Cyndie why do we smoke". I'm glad I had the privlege to have been part of his life. My prayers go to his daughter and family. He was one of my favorite mentors. I will miss him and hope we can meet another day. LOL to you Tony

Peter Lee, Montreal:

I am so happy you have posted this site as I would not have known otherwise. Having studied with Dr. Dawson from 84 to 88, I remember his hilarious expressions, stories, and a keen ability to appreciate each. I was introduced to him by my brother John, whose stories of singing at the Church of Redeemer were a source of constant entertainment, and whose composition written as a harmony assignment has been with us ever since. Dr. Dawson, you have been a good friend. My condolences to your family and my heartfelt appreciation for having known you.

James Wallace, New York, NY:


I was fortunate to study with Dr. Dawson in 1987 & 1988. The man conducted his classes with humor, insight, and expertise. He had this rare ability to present complex ideas with singular clarity. I think of him often, not just as a teacher but as a friend. As an older student and somewhat of an outsider, he made me feel accepted, and equal to the tasks at hand. He believed in me at a time when I was vulnerable and that made all the difference. Because of his guidance and belief I went on to be awarded the Gold Medal in Performance and I have since performed for George Benson and at Carnegie Hall.

God Bless you Dr. Dawson. I will always remember you.

Giulio Paonessa:

In 1984 after singing and playing guitar for twenty years I was going through a slow period as far as work and so I have decided to study music seriously. I called at the RCM and the first person I talked to was DR. DAWSON. With pride and joy I studied with DR DAWSON at the RCM for seven years and I know that HE was the main reason why I did finish all my theory study.We remain friends ever since and usually twice a year we would meet for lunch. Unfortunately because of changes in my business six years a go I stopped our routine waiting for things to get better and than be able to meet again. This morning I wanted to find out if there is something new at the RMC and with great sorrow I find out that a great man, teacher and friend, of a gentle soul, is not longer with us. Since the age of 12 music has been part of my life and ANTHONY DAWSON organized that part of my life.

The 7th falls the leading note rise.

May you rest in peace


Julian Fisher, Toronto, Ontario Canada:

I studied with J.A.D. from 1980-1984 and friends with him, thereafter. I survived the Faculty of Music, 1984-84 as a result. Forever grateful!