On October 23, 2018, a ceremony was held to inaugurate the Daisy Peterson Sweeney Mural located at 1791 Rue Saint-Jacques, Montréal, QC. In attendance was the artist, Kevin Ledo, representatives of MU, The City of Montreal, community partners, the Daisy Peterson Sweeney family and well-wishers and friends.
Judith Sweeney’s statement at mural dedication
Dr. Daisy Elitha Peterson Sweeney was born in Montreal May 7th, 1920. There were not many employment opportunities for a young, Black female other than to work as a domestic. Out of a weekly salary of $5, she took $3.50 to pay for piano lessons. She went on to obtain her Licentiate of Music from McGill. She is the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Laurentian University and also received the Martin Luther King Junior Award.
Daisy taught the basics of music to many who went on to become acclaimed musicians; Norman Villeneuve, Ken Skinner, Reg Wilson, Joe Sealy, Dr. Oliver Jones, and her brother Dr. Oscar Peterson. She started the Montreal Black Community Youth Choir that grew to become the Montreal Jubilation Choir under the tutelage of Dr. Trevor Payne.
Her rates were low and affordable for those who might never have been able to take piano lessons otherwise. She taught at the Montreal Boys and Girls Club as well as the Negro Community Center where group lessons were a mere $0.25 a week. She provided scholarships for children who showed promise. She gave family rates so that parents could afford to send more than one child for lessons. She got people to donate unused pianos to grateful families.
Culturally, through the Kiwanis/Lions Club she was able to obtain tickets to bring low income children up to Place des Arts to hear the symphony, see the Opera and plays. She entered her students in various music festivals. She brought students to McGill to take Preparatory music and theory exams to instill confidence in their ability to achieve.
She filled in as organist/pianist for various churches Presbyterian, United, Anglican, and Seventh-day Adventist. If you asked, she was there.
She gave freely of her time to provide the musical accompaniment for a ballet teacher starting her own studio. In kind, her children were granted free ballet lessons. Picture me, the ballerina. No don’t.
Daisy was a child advocate, mentor, confidant, loyal friend. Besides fostering and adopting many children she was also asked to take in Children at Risk until they could be placed.
She had a richness of heart.
This magnificent mural speaks to our heart. Thousands did speak to her and whenever they said her name, it was with a smile on their face.
Mom, continue to watch over this city that you loved so much.
Artist – Kevin Ledo
Hommage à Daisy Peterson Sweeney
(Text from MuMtl.org)
This is the fourth mural in a series celebrating jazz and exploring Little Burgundy’s musical heritage. Dedicated to Daisy Peterson Sweeney, older sister and first piano teacher to the acclaimed musician Oscar Peterson, it is also the twentieth in MU’s collection Montreal’s Great Artists, HOMMAGE AUX BATISSEURS CULTURELS MONTRÉALAIS, which highlights the creative minds and forces who have made outstanding contributions to Montreal’s cultural scene.
An accomplished pianist, Sweeney was the older sister and first piano teacher to the acclaimed musician, Oscar Peterson. She grew up in Montreal’s Little Burgundy neighborhood (called Saint-Henri at the time) and earned a music degree from McGill University. She is one of the most renowned teachers of the Black Community Center, where she gave piano, singing and music theory lessons. Many of her students, such as Oliver Jones, Joe Sealy, Reg Wilson and Ken Skinner, Jr, went on to have accomplished music careers. Along with Trevor Payne, Sweeney co-founded, Montreal’s Black Community Youth Choir (1974-1981) of the Union United Church which, in 1982, became the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir. This mural recognizes Daisy Peterson Sweeney’s profound influence on Montreal’s musical life.
Community Partners: Office municipal d’habitation de Montréal (OMHM), Coalition de la Petite Bourgogne, Youth in Motion and Atelier 850.
Revue de presse – Daisy Peterson Sweeney MUMTL.org
Press coverage of the Daisy Peterson-Sweeney mural compiled by MU, the organization responsible for the mural creation.
Photographer: Olivier Bousquet