Sylvia Schwarzenbach was born in Bern Switzerland, pursued her clarinet and piano studies at the conservatory of Bern and Lausanne where she received her virtuosity diploma. She continued her studies in Nizza, Paris and Berlin. Before her retirement, she taught a clarinet class at the Berne Conservatory for 42 years and was responsible for establishing the woodwind didactic study at the HKB in Bern. She was a board member of the SMM- Swiss Association for Musicians Medicine, responsible for pedagogy and research. Her performances in concerts with various ensembles, workshops and lectures took her to many countries throughout Europe, the United States and Latin America. She is a long-standing member of ISME, advisor to several ISME Commissions and the Forum on Instrumental and Vocal Teaching, and past member of the ISME Board of Directors. In Beijing in 2010, the ISME Board awarded her Honorary Life Membership in ISME.
Sylvia Scharzenbach attended her first ISME conference in 1976 which was held in her home country, in Montreux, Switzerland. This conference marked the beginning of her lifelong relationship with the Society, a relationship that has grown over the past thirty-four years, from becoming a member to becoming one of ISME’s finest ambassadors, and that relationship promises to continue for many more years.
Syvia’s passion for music and music education has seen her at every ISME conference, at many ISME Commission Seminars and more recently as an advisor to the ISME Forum of Instrumental and Vocal Teaching. Sylvia’s keen interest in Music Wellness and Music Medicine has resulted in her organizing roundtable sessions for the 2006 Tenerife conference and making presentations at seminars in Spain, Czech Republic and Switzerland.
Sylvia’s passion for young people was felt by the many students she taught at the Musikschule Konservatorium for forty-two years, while also teaching woodwinds for thirty years at the Hochschüle der Künst, both located in her home city, Bern. In 1994 her clarinet/guitar group performed and conducted a workshop at the Tampa Conference where she was also appointed as ISME’s Representative to the Swiss Music Council. This inspired other Swiss groups to perform at subsequent ISME Conferences.
Sylvia was elected to the ISME Board and served two terms, 1996 – 2000. Her enthusiasm for young people led to her appointment to the newly formed ISME Youth Focus Group, which successfully brought many younger people to ISME including her own students who began to attend conferences as a Youth Group Member of ISME.
Sylvia’s multi-lingual skills have benefited ISME greatly as she observed and reported on regional conferences in Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico and Chile. In addition, she is the German translator for the IJME Practice Journal. A valuable member of the ISME Sponsorship Committee, Sylvia continues to provide contacts in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
Retirement from teaching combined with her love of travel, her eagerness to meet new people and explore many different cultures has placed Sylvia in a new, voluntary role. She embarked on her mission to visit new countries, develop new language skills and seek out people in music schools, conservatories and universities who welcomed her as she promoted ISME. Her travels have taken her to Egypt, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Oman, Brazil, Hungary, Czech Republic, Lithuania and Romania. She’s made presentations on behalf of ISME in Italy, Spain, France and Germany. Just this year she promoted ISME in India and Syria and is planning to return to Syria to make presentations to three high schools that teach traditional Arabic music.
Simply promoting ISME has never been enough for Sylvia. Meeting and making friends with all those people around the world and identifying their needs has prompted her to personally sponsor delegates from many of those countries as well as two performing groups. And who else but Sylvia, a clarinet performer and teacher, would see that a teacher received a much-needed clarinet for children in the former Jugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and a talented young boy in South Africa would also receive a clarinet.
There are many unsung heroes within ISME’s membership. Sylvia Schwarzenbach is one of them.