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Thursday 6 October 2011

Remembering Dr Mária Hári

Dr Mária Hári

“Memories” from Susie Mallett,
Petö Institute, 1989-1993

Dr Hári, as she always was to me, was a figure larger than life, although at the same time small, delicate and as fragile as a bird, but she was as tough as old boots.

An all-seeing bird

Dr Hári had the most wonderful piercing eyes that added to the souring, all-seeing, bird-like image of her that I still carry with me. I truly believed that those eyes could penetrate through my outer-layers into my soul, and, because I believed this, I was not afraid to talk to her as I was to many other people during my training at the Petö Institute. I was not afraid as I really believed that she already knew me inside out because she could read what was in my soul.

Nothing lost in translation

I have few really personal memories of Dr. Hári. She taught me as one of a group of hundreds of students and sadly much of what she said in the early months was lost in translation. I do not mean it was not translated well, it was just that I did not hear it out of Dr Hári’s mouth in Hungarian, but in English from headphones.

I still have my images of her in my notebooks, doodles I suppose they are, that I drew as she hopped here and there on the stage as she described conductive pedagogy to us. I hated the thought that I was missing something, so it was not long before I learnt the language well enough to sit with only one earpiece, this meant that I could hear those words straight from the horse’s mouth.

Later on in my training my contact with Dr Hári was closer when she taught the British students in a small group, in English. We were always “Andrew Sutton’s conductors” to her and I think she had developed a soft-spot in her heart for us. This was apparent to us when, at the end of our very last lecture with her, she disappeared into her private office for several minutes before reappearing with a huge beam on her face bearing a tray of the strongest coffee that we British tea-drinkers had ever tasted. We were so touched by Dr Hári’s gesture that many of us, who were not coffee drinkers at all, never-the-less participated in this farewell ritual.

Favourite topics used for distraction!

I think all of the trainee conductors, of all nationalities, knew that Dr Hári had favourite topics. There were many things that we could find to discuss with her for a very long time.

When it came to taking my final exam with her one of my favourite topics was the use of art for a variety of reasons in problem solving with people with disabilities. One of my “specialities” of the moment was my work with children with diplegia and Dr Hári got hooked on this with me. The ensuing conversation, about a project using drawing to develop body awareness, soon dealt with the time allotted to me for my oral examination, when I should have been talking about something completely different.

That was the first, and last, time in my four-year training that I had actually enjoyed an examination in the way that I had always enjoyed the four-hour art exams at school. Dr Hári spoke to my soul and it responded with enthusiasm just as it always does when I have a paintbrush in my hand!

Talking to my soul

My last, and lasting, memory is of the day I shook hands with Dr Hári on my final day as a student at the Petö Institute. On that occasion those piercing eyes of hers looked deep into my soul as she gave me my diploma.

Dr Hári was once again beaming as she told me that she hoped that I would have many special experiences in my future life as a conductor.

That moment lasted for only a few seconds, she had a lot of diploms to hand out, but for me time stood still. I felt like my soul was bursting and would leap out of my mouth! A hundred thoughts whizzed past in that moment but only one was caught and is remembered. I thought this about Dr Hári:

She knows, she really knows what it is like to be a conductor and she has taught me to understand what it means to teach someone, by using conductive pedagogy, how to live conductively.  She has allowed me to find what it was that I had come searching for.

A gift for a lifetime

I had many good teachers at the Petö Institute but only a couple about whom I can say it is because of their teaching that I understand. It was from Dr Hári herself from 1989 until 1993, and by reading her work since, that I have built up my personal understanding of conductive pedagogy and conductive upbringing.

Dr Hári sowed the seed for my wish to learn, discover and develop, to read and to understand. I still thank her for this wonderful gift.
The Petö Institute, June 1993


Read more of the same, but in Hungarian, here:

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