Daisy Sweeney remembered, 1 year later, as 'marvellous woman who made a huge contribution' to Montreal

The Sweeney family says it had a positive meeting with Mayor Valérie Plante on how Montreal should honour her memory.

Sweeney family says it had a positive meeting with Valérie Plante on how Montreal should honour her memory

Famed jazz pianist Oliver Jones, who took piano lessons from Sweeney as a child, said she was the first person to introduce him to some of the world's greatest composers. (CBC)

For famed jazz pianist Oliver Jones, Daisy Peterson Sweeney was more than just a music teacher.

She was the first person to introduce the celebrated jazz pianist to some of the world's greatest composers, from Mozart to Hungary's Franz Liszt.

"She brought the world to me because there wasn't any place that I was able to go to listen to Mozart or Liszt or any of the greats," said Jones, who took music lessons from Sweeney as a child, growing up only a few doors down from the Peterson home in Montreal's Little Burgundy neighbourhood.

"She pointed them out to me, and gave me the opportunity to become familiar with these wonderful, wonderful composers," he told CBC News.

Jones was among dozens of people who congregated at Union United Church in Little Burgundy Sunday to commemorate Sweeney on the first anniversary of her death. She passed away last year at age 97.

Oliver Jones, pictured here with Daisy Peterson Sweeney, says she was the first person to introduce him to the world's greatest composers. (Radio-Canada)

Sweeney was a fixture in Little Burgundy, teaching some of Canada's most celebrated jazz legends, including her brother, Oscar Peterson.

She taught hundreds of children how to play piano at Montreal's former Negro Community Centre, and also founded a youth choir, which eventually became the internationally celebrated Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir.

Family had 'very positive' meeting with the city

Sweeney's family is in the process of discussing with the City of Montreal how best to honour her legacy.

Late last month, family members said they were disappointed after the Plante administration offered to rename a small park after her, despite an earlier promise by former mayor Denis Coderre to name a street after Sweeney.

Guy-Paxton Park, which sits between Little Burgundy and Griffintown, doesn't befit Sweeney's legacy, they said.

Dozens congregated at Union United Church in Little Burgundy Sunday to commemorate Sweeney on the first anniversary of her death. (CBC)

Sweeney's family met with Mayor Valérie Plante a few days ago, however, and came out of the meeting feeling hopeful.

"It was very, very positive and the city presented some possibilities," said Kenneth Hemmerick, Sweeney's foster son. "We think that something very, very good is going to happen."

Celine Peterson, Oscar Peterson's daughter, told CBC Montreal's Daybreak on Monday the family is evaluating two options to honour her aunt: a street and park.

She didn't elaborate on where the street or park are located in the city, but said Guy-Paxton Park was off the table.

"There are two wonderful options," said Peterson, who said she hoped the city would use this experience to better approach how it honours the impact of Black Montrealers going forward.

"The city itself does need to step up to make sure they're not leaving important pieces of our history out. I think this is the first step — there's a long way to go."

In the meantime, Hemmerick said he was happy to see so many people come out to commemorate Sweeney, and remember everything she did for Montreal.

"She was a marvellous woman who made a huge contribution to the city," he said.

"We're delighted that so many people want to remember her, and we're delighted that the city recognizes her importance — not only to the city, but also to musicians throughout the world."

With files from CBC's Valeria Cori-Manocchio and CBC Montreal's Daybreak