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Friends, Former Students Share Memories of Solveig Steen

Following the death of longtime piano instructor and Augustana alumna Solveig Steen on Friday, April 12, a number of her friends and former students took time to share their memories of her:

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"I am so sad to hear of the news of Solveig. She was my piano teacher all four years at Augie (2002-2006) and I was so blessed to be one of her students. Here are a few memories that I will always cherish:

There were some times in college when I was not as prepared as I should have been for my lessons (I'm probably the only one in the history of the music department who felt this way- HA!) and so to divert attention from my lack of preparation I would ask her a question about the particular piece or how she would play it or a story about her life. And then she would be Miss Chatterbox and tell all sorts of incredible stories in her very matter-of-fact voice. And of course she would giggle and laugh constantly! She may have been a little lady but she was a strong woman!

My very last day of piano lessons, Solveig and I started to get the giggles and so we decided it would be fun to do something crazy. So we slowly peeked out her room door and when we didn't see anyone there, we rolled her office chair out of the room. She sat down in it and I pushed her all over the music "circle" in Humanities. Oh my goodness- how silly and absolutely hysterical it was!!! That was one of my favorite memories ever!

She always sat with her legs crossed at the piano. I do that sometimes, too!

My husband and I were blessed to be able to attend Solveig's fall concert. She was so good and so fun in her concert and afterwards we stuck around a few extra minutes to visit with her. I hadn't seen her in a few years but she still remembered me and many details about my life and my family!

When I found out about Solveig's death from my college roommate, my daughter's and I were, appropriately playing piano. She wasn't the only teacher in my life but she was one who made a deep impression on me. She will be missed!"

— Allison (Girtz) Antoine, Class of 2006
(Pictured above with Solveig following her Fall 2012 recital.)

 

"It was a great honor to have been one of her students.  She was a gifted performer, an outstanding instructor, and one of the most patient, yet vibrant, people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  She always had a smile for her students and knew how to share her drive for perfection while still understanding that not everyone wasn’t going to get there. Goodbye, Solveig!  You will be missed, but I'm sure you are entertaining the angels in Heaven!"

—Valerie Lietz

 

"First, I’ll tell you a little about myself. I took lessons from Solveig starting at age 8 until I was 18. I graduated from Washington High School in 2007 and am now getting my master’s in business administration at the University of South Dakota.

I would like share some memories I have of Solveig Steen.

She was my piano teacher for 10 years. She taught me everything I know about music and, looking back, I think that she was the reason that I came to love it so much. She would always play the most beautiful music for me. Watching her play, I could tell how much she loved it. I wanted to play just like her. A quote that she had posted in her office has stuck with me through the years: 'The fact that you are doing something all the days of your life that passionately interests you means you are going to want to stay alive as long as possible.'

She gave me a passion for music and I couldn’t have asked for a greater gift. I’ll never forget her.

My deepest sympathies go to those close to her and all of her other students, Solveig will be greatly missed."

— Allison Farmer

 

"My mother and Sos were first cousins. My mother's Aunt was Solveig's mother, Georgie. My Great Aunt and my mother's father, Ray Dalen were siblings, sister and brother. They grew up on a homestead near Buffalo Trading Post, west of Colton. We spent every summer on the 4th of July enjoying the family get togethers. Of course, Solveig would play at the piano and the love of music was presented to all of us. My grandfather, Solveig's Uncle Ray would bring out the Violin and the music would continue into the night. Good memories, good times!  I am at a loss and am saddened by her passing. My mother, Arla Dalen spent her senior year in High School (Washington H. S.) living with her Aunt Georgie and her Uncle Constant and of course Sos, as I was used to calling her. Later,  my Mom worked at Augustana as the Public Relations Director and when Solveig was in school at Augie, the family get togethers continued. When Sos was getting her teachers credential, she student taught at Jefferson Elementary School and I had her for a short while as my music teacher. I felt very fortunate to have had her as a teacher and I did learn a lot about music appreciation and the importance of music in our lives.  I always told Solveig what a good teacher she was and, happy to have had such an accomplished artist in the family. I live in California now, but was looking forward to visiting her this coming summer as I spend some time on the family homestead. Solveig loved the time she spent on the farm and I wanted so much to experience those moments with her again. I would like to express sympathy to the extended family with this sudden passing of a good soul and family member.

— Bradley Brantner

 

"I studied piano with Solveig all four years at Augie and we kept in regular contact after I graduated in1999. She would update me on her latest home improvement projects, her travels, and of course, her beloved students. She truly cared about each of them, but had a soft spot for the youngest ones. One student in particular she lovingly referred to as "her adopted grandson, Sam" — who is probably a college student himself now.

The opposite of stuffy or rigid, Solveig had a delightful sense of humor and was just plain fun to be around. She'd wistfully recount how she 'weighed 88 pounds in her younger years' and was constantly saying she needed to diet (which she didn't) but that she loved food too much. She was a notorious night owl and would stay up until the wee hours of the morning watching cable TV ('there are just so many channels!'). She was always in the middle of some major project or other, either landscaping or remodeling or something that required power tools and heavy lifting. I visited with her at her home a couple times, and after showing me the latest and greatest improvements, she'd describe in detail the next 'to-do' item on her ever-lengthening list. She certainly didn't shy away from hard work and would go completely stir-crazy if an illness or injury stalled her progress.

Solveig's favorite musical piece was Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings and once she took time out of my lesson to walk me down to the listening room, pull the LP off the shelf (because 'analog sounds better') and play it for me. We sat in silence listening to the gorgeous music, which she later pointed out was brilliantly used in the Charlie Sheen movie, Platoon. To this day, I think of her whenever I hear those gut-wrenching crescendos.

Solveig had a zeal for life: for faith, art, adventure, current events, music, and especially, the piano. She knew when I hadn't practiced but didn't berate me for it. Instead, she'd tell me about how much she practiced when she studied under Ruth Slenczynska, which had the same effect. She was a patient instructor who infused her lessons with laughter, storytelling, and artistic passion. She introduced me to my favorite composer, Frederic Chopin, and once told me, 'you were made for Chopin, and Chopin was made for you.' One of the greatest compliments I ever received was when she told me I had executed a passage from one of his Preludes better than she could. It was a proud moment for me, and I like to think it was a moment of pride for her too.

Every person can point to two or three teachers in his or her past who have had a lasting, life-changing impact. I am blessed that Solveig was one of those teachers. Even though she is gone, she will continue to be a pivotal figure in my life, and no doubt, in the lives — and music —of many others.

Blessed be her memory."

—Emily Cole-Jones

 

"I loved Solveig because she just told it like she saw it! Her sense of humor always made me laugh! Even after I graduated from Augie, my dad did her taxes and she continued to amuse me with her stories that she shared with my dad. Hope she is up there playing away on the piano in heaven!"

— Jami Beck, Class of 2003

 

"When Solveig interviewed my son, nine-year-old Andre Zachariahs as a prospective student, she challenged him about the rigors of her class and asked if he was up to the task. He responded, 'I’ll try.' With a quick come-back she challenged him, 'you will not try ... you will do.'  Immediately, I knew she was the right teacher. My son grew to love this diminutive stalwart! And we are glad Solveig lived to make that difference."

— Barry H Zachariahs (Andre’s father)

 

"I studied piano with Solveig Steen about 10 years ago when I was a middle school student. I went to my lesson one day, and Solvieg knew I hadn't been practicing to the level she expected from me. In fact, that week I probably hadn't practiced at all. Every lesson began with two pages of assigned scales and, after I stumbled through them, she took a deep breath. She moved closer to me and held out her hands. 'I want you to feel this muscle right here,' she said, pointing to the area of her hand below her pinkie finger. I reached out and felt the muscle. To my surprise, the muscle was firm and extremely strong. 'I practice my scales every day,' she said, and I knew that Solveig, unlike my other teachers, would never be fooled by my sight-reading."

Hannah Weise