Canterbury music pioneer excelled at teaching
Trained as a violinist, Johannes Lussenburg was even more passionate about teaching than making music.
The head of Canterbury High School’s music department from 1970 to 1982, Lussenburg ruled with a stern hand, guiding students through theory and music history classes. Before Canterbury became a renowned performing arts school, it catered to and attracted music students.
“Canterbury had the special music program in those days when you could get two periods a day of music. He was one of the individuals who pioneered that idea of the concentration of music at the high school level,” said former student Jonathan Wade, an NAC Orchestra percussionist.
“But he was a very serious man and he wanted you to take music seriously. He could have a sense of humour, but he expected diligence and hard work.”
Wade said other former students who went on to a musical career include Gordon Richards, a clarinetist with the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra, and David Martin, a trombone player who has played with the Montreal Symphony.
Lussenburg died at his Beacon Hill home June 6 after a long battle with essential tremor, a neurological disorder characterized by the shaking of the hands and head. He was 87.
Born in Ermelo, Holland, Lussenburg received his early musical training at Utrecht Conservatory, was a violinist with the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and after the Second World War also studied at the Hague Conservatory.
He came to Canada in 1951, settling first in Hawkesbury, where he worked as a turkey farmer. He began teaching music at the high school in Hawkesbury before moving to Nepean High School. He returned to Holland for about five years and spent time at the School of Music in Rotterdam, where he wrote a music textbook,
Progressive Studies, which is still in use in Holland.
He returned to Canada and taught at a Toronto high school and later was recruited by Ottawa school board officials to come to Canterbury and start its music program.
He also co-founded the Ottawa Youth Orchestra, which recruited some of the city’s top music high school and university students.
“Hans played the violin at home and it was fun to listen to him. But he didn’t play as much because you know, he was teaching all day long and he’d want to do other things,” said his wife, Peggy Lussenburg.
She said her husband’s passion was more for teaching than performing.
“Music is a craft but it’s not necessarily one that you want to perform at, but he enjoyed teaching and he was very good at it. He could show the students not only with the violin but with wind instruments and other instruments.
“He was good at showing them how it could be done, what kind of intonation and then of course, the history of music and harmonies.”
Her husband suffered a mild heart attack in 1981 and retired from Canterbury in 1982. A memorial and interment service will be held July 11 at Beechwood Cemetery.